Mary Zimmerman’s The Secret in the Wings marks the second annual Underclassmen Showcase at Purdue University Fort Wayne and provides an opportunity for the Department of Theatre to spotlight our newest students.

Following last year’s staged reading of John Cariani’s Almost, Maine, this year’s show is a full production with 11 underclassmen theater majors, nine of whom make their collegiate theatrical debut. All of them are studying performance as their emphasis. As an ensemble, they are responsible for contributing to all aspects of the production from costumes to props to sets.

The Secret in the Wings is a collection of little-known fairy tales including “The Princess Who Wouldn’t Laugh,” “Allerleira,” and “Stolen Pennies.” Each story takes place in its own magical world, using different theatrical conventions to present its tale.

The stories are woven together by exchanges between a young girl named Bella (played by Bella Hadley) and her ogre babysitter (played by Jesse Harris) as they engage imaginary friends to create and play within these fairy tale worlds.

Freshman Chase Lomont plays various characters including the Father in “Stolen Pennies” and the Ambassador in “The Three Blind Queens.” He explained to me that he has enjoyed the collaborative nature of working as an ensemble to create each story. He found it really easy to fully commit to his characters since we did so much work at the beginning of the process in determining how the environments looked and felt for each story. Sophomore Rachel Lancaster serves as the production’s stage manager.

Music, a key component throughout the production, includes freshman Kelsey Erexson beat-boxing and playing the cajon and freshman Melanie Lisinicchia playing the flute. The showcase features new music by Hadley and lead vocals by freshman Emily Knight.

Be forewarned, these stories take harrowing journeys and are not for younger viewers. And while these fairy tales are not kids’ stuff, each of the stories eventually teaches us a moral lesson. From queens ripping out their own eyes, suitors getting their heads chopped off, and a father who asks for his daughter’s hand in marriage, these are decidedly the lesser-known fairy tales.

I believe this is a great piece for young actors to work on as it challenges their ability to play realistic characters while existing in heightened worlds. It’s a fun and unique piece and everyone working on the show has played a strong hand in how we interpret and present these stories for the audience.

It has been a great way to end the semester and put the spotlight on our talented underclassmen.