Peninsula residents will transform into royalty, court jesters, minstrels and a slew of other medieval characters this weekend when the Burlingame-based Pied Piper Players community theater group opens its production of Once Upon a Mattress.
Based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Princess and the Pea, 75 thespians from towns including Burlingame, Belmont, San Mateo, Foster City and Menlo Park take on more than a dozen musical numbers throughout the fun, family-friendly play. The show follows Queen Aggravain, who has ruled no one may marry until her son does; however, she thwarts the attempts of every princess. In their frustration, Sir Harry and Lady Larken, awaiting a marriage of their own, attempt to find a suitable princess.
“They try to pick stories that resonate with a family environment,” said Producer Sue Dooley.
Family is a main pillar of the Pied Piper Players, which gives all who audition a part and encourages actors of all ages. Not only do family members volunteer in costume, set design, publicity and ticket sales before and during productions, but many of the actors come from the same families, as well.
In fact, Amy Fay, who plays Queen Aggravain, is the real-life mother of her on-stage son, Prince Dauntless the Drab, played by Ethan Miller, a seventh grader at Ralston Middle School.
Both recount their time together on stage as a rewarding experience.
“He helps me learn the ropes of theater, he helps me with harmony,” said Fay, who is newer to musicals than her son. “It’s just fun to be involved in something [together].”
Ethan agreed, saying it’s great to have his mom participating in the production with him.
In addition to seeing families come together on and off stage to make the production happen, the cast and crew form their own special connection during the 50 plus rehearsals.
“It’s just like a big family,” said Fay.
Dooley noted the strong friendships her daughter in the show has made with cast members of all ages. She said the kids are separated in their own worlds at their respective schools, and participating in the play allows them to get outside of their smaller circles and create new bonds.
This camaraderie is a crucial component of a show coming together, said director Leslie Stupple.
“We have a common purpose,” she said. “You have a part in it personally to bring your best…and that’s what makes a good community.”
“Bringing you best” for Stupple includes respecting each other and each part, communicating and including everyone in the process.
However, in addition to expecting respect and hard work from her cast, she has high performance expectations for the kids and adults, as well.
“I have very high expectations of them and I think it surprises them,” she said. “[But] if you raise the bar for these guys, they’re going to meet it.”
Now that rehearsals are drawing to a close, the cast, crew and show volunteers are looking forward to what they hope is a packed house for opening night.
“The energy…the audience gives to you absolutely invigorates your performance,” said Fay, a sentiment echoed by her son, Ethan.
“Just seeing it all come together,” he said. “That’s really the best part.”
The show runs Friday, April 27 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, April 28 and Sunday, April 29 at 2 p.m.; Friday, May 4 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, May 5 and Sunday, May 6 at 2 p.m. at the Bayside Performing Arts Center, 2025 Kehoe Avenue, San Mateo. Tickets are $16 for adults, $12 for seniors and children under 17. Visit www.piedpiperplayers.org for tickets.