In an online event created for older youth and adult audiences, renown folklore and preeminent fairy tale expert Jack Zipes will exhume and examine the importance of little-known tales from the first half of the twentieth century. Photo by Ryan Brennan.
In an online event created for older youth and adult audiences, renown folklore and preeminent fairy tale expert Jack Zipes will exhume and examine the importance of little-known tales from the first half of the twentieth century. Photo by Ryan Brennan.

Folklore and fairy tale expert Jack Zipes explores the importance of little-known tales from the first half of the twentieth century in Resurrecting Dead Fairy Tales, an online lecture and Q&A, bringing back to life subversive stories created to oppose the rise of Nazism and other forms of totalitarianism internationally.

As part of a series of workshops and events leading up to Miscellaneous Productions’ next theatre work, Plague, organizers say world events today and their impact on youth make this lecture and conversation sharply relevant.

“In discussing these works, Zipes hopes to introduce youth to what they might be missing by not paying attention to certain periods of history, such as the early rise of fascism at the beginning of the twentieth century.”

In this Q&A with Miscellaneous Productions’ artistic director Elaine Carol, we find out more.

Resurrecting Dead Fairy Tales: An Online Lecture and Q&A with Folklorist Jack Zipes screens online for free on February 17. Visit miscellaneousproductions.ca for more information.

This interview has been edited.

Tell us about Resurrecting Dead Fairy Tales. What can audiences expect?

The audience can expect a 40-minute film of the great Jack Zipes delivering a fascinating lecture on almost lost fairy tales written and illustrated by anti-fascist literary and visual art luminaries from the 1920s to 1950s, predominately from European and American cultures. The film uses many of the illustrations from these resurrected fairy tales.

History is doomed to repeat itself. We must preserve the things that make us human, and stand up to forces that would tear our society apart. – Jack Zipes

With the goal of, as he describes it, “unburying and reinvigorating dead fairy tales and their creators,” the lecture will bring back to life subversive stories created to oppose the rise of Nazism and other forms of totalitarianism internationally. World events today and their impact on youth make this lecture and conversation sharply relevant. In discussing these works, Zipes hopes to introduce youth to what they might be missing by not paying attention to certain periods of history, such as the early rise of fascism at the beginning of the twentieth century.

There is also some of Jack Zipes’ personal history in this film, including a memory of Albert Einstein and his fascinating lesson to a very young Jack and his grandmother.

There will be a live Q&A after the film is screened/streamed.

How did you come about partnering with Jack Zipes?

Known fondly as the “benevolent drill sergeant”, Elaine Carol (photo above) has directed, produced and written/co-written all of the company’s community-engaged performances in Canada, the US and Europe.
Known fondly as the “benevolent drill sergeant”, Elaine Carol (photo above) has directed, produced and written/co-written all of the Miscellaneous Productions’ community-engaged performances in Canada, the US and Europe.

I met Jack Zipes at the University of Arizona (Tempe) theatre and film department’s symposium examining ethics in the representation of children and youth in performance, pedagogy and popular culture. It was a small group, and the discussion was rigorous, and Jack was the keynote speaker. I was in awe of his intellect and philosophy of using storytelling theatre and fairy tales as a tool for empowerment, artistry, education and respectful communication with young people.

He was welcoming and encouraging to all of us at Miscellaneous Productions and continues to be.

Originally Jack was supposed to come up to Vancouver for a 10-day gig in which he was going to deliver this lecture at The Dance Centre, work with the artists in our organization as we embark on the co-creation of performances inspired by fairy tales and folklore of the representative youth from across the Lower Mainland and Prince George that we will be working with, and giving a storytelling workshop to students at Miss Heidi’s drama class at Tupper Secondary in East Van.

When COVID-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions were imposed, we decided to pivot to an online project for now.

In October, I hired a film crew in Minneapolis, where Jack lives, and I directed the film by Zoom from my kitchen in East Van. The Minneapolis location at the University is beautiful, a Victorian library in the centre of this troubled city. Directing by Zoom is challenging but completely workable considering the time we live in and the safety precautions we must take to protect each other. We have been editing in Vancouver since then and are now at the final cut stage.

What was it about Zipes’s lecture that got you excited about presenting?

Everything.

Is there a particular tale that Zipes talks about that resonates with you?

It changes every day. Right now, I am partial to Johnny Breadless/Jean-sans-pain.  Yesterday, it was The Giant Ohl and Tiny Tim. Tomorrow it will be Keedle.

All these books and others are covered in the filmed lecture.

Why should someone tune in to watch Resurrecting Dead Fairy Tales?

If anyone has any interest in fairy tales, folklore, animal wonder tales and myths, or tools for anti-fascism education and pedagogy, or illustrations in children’s books from the first half of the 20th century, then this is the film and Q&A for you. If you are a fan of Jack Zipes, and there are many, he is basically a rock star in the fairy tale, folklore and fantasy world, you will enjoy this work.

The lecture is part of a bigger plan for your upcoming work, Plague. How does it fit into what you are planning?

We are currently reading as much of Jack’s prodigious, remarkable work as we can as an influence on the co-creation, community-engaged work that we are in the early phases of development. We read everything he wrote on The Pied Piper, The Giant Ohl, and other pandemic folklore.

Recently two young collaborators of Miscellaneous Productions, Tiffany Yang and Julia Farry, translated old pandemic folktales from Taiwan and Japan. We hope to move onto Spanish-language tales of plague from Latinx countries and Spain, as well as the history of Indigenous people on Turtle Island and how deadly plague was spread by European colonizers, killing thousands.

Tell us about Plague. What is it about, and when can audiences expect to see it?

We won’t be able to cast until all the youth we work with are vaccinated, etc., and we can never predict where we will end up until we begin to use our long-term collaborative creation model with our young cast.

Best to see our website for previous projects like Monsters and Away with Home to give folx an idea of our aesthetic and co-creation model.