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Ruth Smillie’s “Sleeping Beauty”

October 9, 2013

There was a time early in her career when Ruth Smillie thought of herself as a director-playwright-actor. “Then I had two kids,” she says. Something had to give and sure enough it did. “I just needed to not be a playwright anymore,” she says. ” I had to take that off the table.”

It stayed off the table for about 20 years, but now it  has been restored to its former, proper place. “I’m not directing much these days,” says Smillie, who oversees the Globe Theatre as artistic director. “This place has become more complicated. So I’m back to doing some writing again.”

Two seasons ago Smillie wrote an adaptation of Robin Hood for the Main Stage Series. Now she is following up with Sleeping Beauty. “There are many versions of the story,” she says. “I wanted to tell my own version. That’s what I love about theatre. It’s creative. It’s dynamic. It’s a chance to do it your own way.”

As always, the writing begins with a question or three. “Where do I start? Where do I end? What’s the pivotal moment,” Smillie says. “Once I reassured myself on those things, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. Once I figured out the basic arc of the story, then I could start playing around with all the other stuff.”

Smillie has long been fascinated by fairy tales, particularly those that actually include fairies. “Probably because I’m Irish on both sides,” she says. There’s much about the genre Smillie finds irresistible. Its epic nature. The enchantment. The magic. Things she describes as “iconic echos in the imagination.”

In this case the clincher was that Sleeping Beauty has to do with a stolen child. That and the strong element of the “unredeemably evil and the possibility of people being born into evil  and making a different choice,” Smillie says. “I thought about character a lot and in theatre you want your characters to go on a journey, you’re writing characters that need to live and breathe. I kept not pushing the send button because there was always something else, something more I wanted to write.”

Sleeping Beauty is directed by Courtenay Dobbie and was dramaturged by Globe Theatre executive director Andrew North, who repeatedly reminded Smillie to concentrate on writing and not get distracted by concerns about the actual production.

“I don’t know how we’re going to do fireballs,” Smillie says with a laugh. “Certainly, the logistical side is always there and that’s fine as long as it doesn’t interfere with the creative process. I have a great respect for the capacity of theatre to transcend and not get stuck on what is or isn’t possible.”

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