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Strings are attached to this sweet story

A royal treat: The Mexico-based company Marionetas de la Equina has been entertaining families since 1975. (THE KENNEDY CENTER)

Even families who are familiar with the traditional story of Sleeping Beauty will have a delightful surprise when they see Marionetas de la Esquina’s “Sleeping Beauty Dreams” this weekend at the Kennedy Center.

The script for the production was written by puppeteer-and-playwright Amaranta Leyva, who grew up surrounded with the puppets of the Mexico-based touring company that her parents created in 1975. Leyva combines her formal training in literature with decades of experience with puppets onstage to weave a tale with humor, whimsy and a message that will resonate with both children and their parents.

“Writing for young audiences lets me explore the intimate emotions that adults sometimes forget and children sometimes are not given the ‘space’ to express,” she said. “Puppets have a magical quality that transports the audience. It’s an experience that’s different from movies or video games, and I believe the emotions and feelings that children have with a live performance stay with them longer.”

As the action begins, a child’s nightmares are calmed by a dad who tells a “true-life” bedtime story of how the child’s parents first met. His tale begins when a magical frog grants a queen’s cherished wish to have a baby, in return for being its godmother. When the queen doesn’t keep her promise she is warned that the princess will one day prick her finger and go into a deep sleep.

The king and queen are so protective of their daughter that she is raised entirely within the confines of the castle walls for fear of a dragon that they say lurks outside. Meanwhile, a young boy whose mother helps the royal parents care for the princess is not allowed to enter the castle and is told that a dragon lies within.

As fate would happen, the youths one day find themselves on opposite sides of the castle wall, and talk to one another. At first they both believe that it’s the dragon they are communicating with, but they soon realize the truth.

When she learns that her parents had been telling her a myth, the girl announces that she no longer wants to be a princess and takes off her crown, pricking her finger and falling into a deep sleep. Enraged, the king throws the crown away, inadvertently striking the boy, who then also enters the Dreamland where he meets the princess.

In the realm of sleep, a dragon emerges, and the princess and boy join together to use their knowledge and skills to confront the monster. When they muster the courage to face the dragon rather than running from it, in a cloud of smoke it is reduced to a harmless frog.

Before the princess returns to the castle, she takes on a new name—Alicia, “one who is true to herself.”

“The best thing that could happen for me as a playwright is for children to leave with a lot of questions to discuss with their parents: ‘What did you think?’ ‘How did you feel?’ ‘Why do you think that happened?’” said Leyva. “I don’t give all the answers in the play. In my view, that is true audience participation!”

Collette Caprara is a local writer and artist.

WANT TO GO?

WHAT: Marionetas de la Esquina’s “Sleeping Beauty Dreams”

WHERE: The Kennedy Center Family Theater, 2700 F St. NW, Washington, D.C.

WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 16, at 11 a.m (in Spanish), 1:30 p.m., and 5 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 17, at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.

COST: $18

TICKETS/INFO: 202/467-4600; kennedy-center.org

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