Suzanne Houston first saw this play over fifteen years ago at McCarter Theatre and she has wanted to direct it ever since. What is the “secret” of the play’s title? Mary Zimmerman, the playwright, once explained that it has a double meaning. The first is about the “wings” of a stage; the audience never knows what is going on back there or what will emerge next. The second, more serious meaning, is that the secret represents those things or events in childhood that mark us for life. Most people we meet will never know or understand what we have experienced.
This piece, originally devised by the Lookingglass Theatre Company of Chicago, was created by the actors in that company, and many of the characters are named for those actors. Although the drama team had that script to use as their foundation, they spent many rehearsal hours collaborating, devising, and creating their own version of this piece. Many moments in this Pennington version came from the performers’ creative work together. They were also very fortunate to take part in a workshop with a British theatre deviser and director, Andy Whyment, who helped our young actors become more daring and confident in their devising.
Throughout the process, there were many discussions about childhood, storytelling, fairy tales, and the importance of stories in children’s lives. And although fairy tales are often quite dark and twisted, within them are cautionary tales of humor, love, tragedy, joy, discovery, redemption, and ultimately transformation. And isn’t that what life is all about?