The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls

“Once upon a time, a woman, who was a girl, who would always be a dyevushka, set out on a journey…”

Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso, Mei Mei Pollitt, Katherine Bourne, and Alexandra Lawrence

Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso, Mei Mei Pollitt, Katherine Bourne, and Alexandra Lawrence

A Regional Premiere directed by Dylan Key

November 11 – December 6, 2014 at Undermain Theatre

Once upon a time (2005), in a faraway land (Russia), 20 year-old Annie knocks on the door of a distant family relation to take some business classes (and lose her American accent). What she discovers are three friends who introduce her to the glitz and corruption of modern Russia, as Soviet echoes linger just under the surface. In Meg Miroshnik’s darkly funny fairytale, the girls must combat evil potatoes, a ferocious bear, and a wicked witch, armed with only their wits, an axe, and a kick-ass closet of stilettos.

Stilettos, Bears and Baba Yaga, OH MY! The UMT basement got full of Russian folklore with a feminist twist during our 31st season, courtesy of Meg Miroshnik’s new play The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls. Directed by Undermain Artistic Associate, Dylan Key, the play made its regional debut under Main St. in January of 2015.

When 20-something American, Annie, sojourns to Russia to reconnect with her roots and brush up on her native tongue with a “Russian for Business” course, she encounters a colorful cast of characters that show her how to get by in a Moscow caught between ancient myth and modern glitz. Her new Russian companions include Katya (a mistress making her way in the world, played by Alexandra Lawrence), Nastya (a whore who knows what’s up, played by Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso), Masha (the live-in girlfriend of a boyfriend who might actually be a literal bear, played by Mei Mei Pollitt), and Annie’s Russian host, an aging Auntie Yaroslava with ulterior motives and an acute aversion to questions (played by Gail Cronauer last seen on the UMT stage as Madame Raquin in our production of Thérèse Raquin in 1999!)

When playwright, Meg Miroshnik journeyed to Moscow with her husband (a native speaker) in 2005, she was thrilled by the exciting and fast-paced world of modern Russia. In an American Theatre article, Meg Miroshnik describes the “abrupt historical shift” she saw during her time there, saying that “a beautiful, curvy historical building would one day, suddenly, have a Revlon billboard plastered over it”. After her visit to Moscow, Miroshnik, a Minnesota native, was inspired to explore what she witnessed in Russia by writing Fairytale Lives. Throughout the play, we see the rich and colorful clash of ancient meeting modern through the eyes of American protagonist, Annie.  

When in Russia, Miroshnik was also fascinated by the duality embodied in Russian women who were simultaneously hyper-feminine and extremely powerful, from their heads to their high-heels. This duality is also explored in the fierce smarts and fearless sexuality of Annie’s new friends. Though characters with descriptions like “the Girlfriend,” “the Mistress,” and “the Whore” could easily be written as the victims of their stories, in this modern fairytale mash-up, these no-nonsense women take the stage to tell their stories themselves.  This was emphasized in UMT’s production as the each character stepped forward, literally taking center stage with her own spotlight to tell her fairytale in direct address (and a thick Russian dialect) to the audience.

One of the many lessons of the fairytales was to “sleep with one eye open.” And if the audience somehow managed to forget, the set (designed by Tony Award winning John Arnone) echoed that eerie reminder even when the actors were silent. The nightmarish landscape of the red and black set even featured a small upstage forest of dead, skeletal trees hung with skulls. A revolving set piece took us from the hall that led to Masha’s apartment and her beastly boyfriend in one scene to the graffitied outside of a questionable club in the next. There was even an attack by a bewitched sack of killer potatoes in Baba Yaga’s kitchen (Prop Design by Linda Noland).

Once upon a time, this regional premiere brought nightmare, whimsy and contemporary fairytale lives to Undermain’s 31st season. Or, as they would say of these characters in Russian, “zhili byli” – meaning “they lived, they were”. 

Cast and Creatives

Meg Miroshnik Playwright

Meg Miroshnik
Playwright

Dylan Key

Dylan Key
Director

John Arnone

John Arnone
Scenic Designer

Amanda Capshaw Costume Designer

Amanda Capshaw
Costume Designer

Linda Noland Properties Designer

Linda Noland
Properties Designer

Paul Semrad Sound Designer

Paul Semrad
Sound Designer

Steve Woods Lighting Designer

Steve Woods
Lighting Designer

Cast

Katherine Bourne Annie

Katherine Bourne
Annie

Gail Cronauer Baba Yaga/Yaroslava

Gail Cronauer
Baba Yaga/Yaroslava

Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso Other Katya/Nastya

Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso
Other Katya/Nastya

Alexandra Lawrence Katya

Alexandra Lawrence
Katya

Mei Mei Pollitt Masha

Mei Mei Pollitt
Masha

Joanna Schellenberg Olga/Passport Control Officer/Professor/Valentina

Joanna Schellenburg
Olga/Passport Control Officer/Professor/Valentina

Photo Archive

The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls Poster

The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls Poster

The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls Postcard Design Front

The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls
Postcard Design Front

The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls Postcard Design Back

The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls
Postcard Design Back

Pictured: Mei Mei Pollitt as Masha in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured: Mei Mei Pollitt as Masha in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured: Mei Mei Pollitt as Masha in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured: Mei Mei Pollitt as Masha in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Joanna Schellenberg as Olga and Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Joanna Schellenberg as Olga and Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie and Joanna Schellenberg as Passport Officer in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie and Joanna Schellenberg as Passport Officer in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga and Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Live of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga and Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Live of Russian Girls.

Katherine Bourne as Annie and Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Katherine Bourne as Annie and Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Katherine Bourne as Annie and Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Katherine Bourne as Annie and Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured: Alexandra Lawrence in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured: Alexandra Lawrence in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Joanna Schellenberg as Professor and Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Joanna Schellenberg as Professor and Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie and Mei Mei Pollitt as Masha in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie and Mei Mei Pollitt as Masha in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Mei Mei Pollitt as Masha and Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Mei Mei Pollitt as Masha and Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga and Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga and Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Alexandra Lawrence as Katya, Katherine Bourne as Annie, and Mei Mei Pollitt as Masha in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Alexandra Lawrence as Katya, Katherine Bourne as Annie, and Mei Mei Pollitt as Masha in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Alexandra Lawrence as Katya, Katherine Bourne as Annie, and Mei Mei Pollitt as Masha in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Alexandra Lawrence as Katya, Katherine Bourne as Annie, and Mei Mei Pollitt as Masha in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Alexandra Lawrence as Katya, Katherine Bourne as Annie, and Mei Mei Pollitt as Masha in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Alexandra Lawrence as Katya, Katherine Bourne as Annie, and Mei Mei Pollitt as Masha in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured: Joanna Schellenberg as Valentina in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured: Joanna Schellenberg as Valentina in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso as The Other Katya and Alexandra Lawrence as Katya in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso as The Other Katya and Alexandra Lawrence as Katya in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured: Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured: Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Alexandra Lawrence as Katya, Katherine Bourne as Annie, and Mei Mei Pollitt as Masha in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Alexandra Lawrence as Katya, Katherine Bourne as Annie, and Mei Mei Pollitt as Masha in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie and Alexandra Lawrence as the Window in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie and Alexandra Lawrence as the Window in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie and Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie and Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured: Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso as Nastya in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured: Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso as Nastya in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie and Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie and Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie, Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga, and Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso as Potatoes in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie, Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga, and Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso as Potatoes in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie and Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso as Potatoes in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie and Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso as Potatoes in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso as Potatoes and Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso as Potatoes and Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso and Alexandra Lawrence as Potatoes in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso and Alexandra Lawrence as Potatoes in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie and Alexandra Lawrence as Katya in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie and Alexandra Lawrence as Katya in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Alexandra Lawrence as Katya and Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Alexandra Lawrence as Katya and Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured: Mei Mei Pollitt as Masha in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured: Mei Mei Pollitt as Masha in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie and Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso as Nastya in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie and Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso as Nastya in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie and Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso as Nastya in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie and Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso as Nastya in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso as Nastya, Katherine Bourne as Annie, and Alexandra Lawrence as Katya in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso as Nastya, Katherine Bourne as Annie, and Alexandra Lawrence as Katya in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured: Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso as Nastya in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured: Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso as Nastya in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie, Mei Mei Pollitt as the Bear, and Alexandra Lawrence as Katya in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Katherine Bourne as Annie, Mei Mei Pollitt as the Bear, and Alexandra Lawrence as Katya in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Alexandra Lawrence as Katya, Katherine Bourne as Annie, and Mei Mei Pollitt as the Bear in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Alexandra Lawrence as Katya, Katherine Bourne as Annie, and Mei Mei Pollitt as the Bear in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Alexandra Lawrence as Katya and Mei Mei Pollitt as Bear in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Alexandra Lawrence as Katya and Mei Mei Pollitt as Bear in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Joanna Schellenberg as Valentina and Alexandra Lawrence as Katya in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Joanna Schellenberg as Valentina and Alexandra Lawrence as Katya in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga and Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga and Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga and Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga and Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga and Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga and Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured: Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured: Gail Cronauer as Baba Yaga in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso as Nastya, Katherine Bourne as Annie, Alexandra Lawrence as Katya, and Mei Mei Pollitt as Masha in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured, L to R: Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso as Nastya, Katherine Bourne as Annie, Alexandra Lawrence as Katya, and Mei Mei Pollitt as Masha in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured: Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Pictured: Katherine Bourne as Annie in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Set detail of The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.

Set detail of The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls.