Archived Arts & Entertainment

Pied Piper stages at Smoky Mountain Community Theatre

By Michael Beadle

An old German town has a very serious rat problem. Luckily, a stranger arrives with just the right solution. But how much will it cost the town?


Smoky Mountain Community Theatre of Bryson City will present an adaptation of “The Pied Piper” for a second run of shows all starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday through Monday, May 11 through 14, in the downtown theatre next to the fire department. Tickets are $5.

Teresa Maynard directs this German folk tale many have come to love as the story of a fun-loving piper whose music magically makes animals and children follow him. The town of Hamelin is ruled by a strict mayor (played by Seth Crockett), who orders children to a life of school and chores and no play time.

When rats suddenly invade the town, the piper (played by Emily Ingle) offers her services – for a fee, of course. But when the rats are gone and the piper returns for her fee, the mayor announces that the town has no money in its coffers. So the piper plays her music once more and leads all the town’s children out of the village to play games and fun lessons they never found in school. When the townspeople become alarmed at the loss of their children, the piper declares, “I have your most valuable treasure.”

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Treat these children fairly, the piper tells the mayor.

Will the mayor agree to ease up his restrictions in order to save the town’s youth or will his pride give way to tragedy? It’s a story that still resonates hundreds of years after its original telling.

“And it’s not just for children,” Maynard said. “Parents need to hear it too.”

Maynard, who has always been fond of fairy tales and folk tales, lists “The Pied Piper” as one of her favorites along with the Brownie stories her mother would tell about a kind elf who came and did nice things for families in the night.

Folk tales have a rich tradition in the storytelling culture, but they’re also rooted in facts, Maynard explained. For instance, the rat invasion of Hamelin may well have been a reference to the plague outbreaks in the Middle Ages. There’s actually a stained glass window in Hamelin (the original said to have been built in the 13th century was destroyed). In the window, a piper is surrounded by children. Could there have been a real pied piper who led the children away from their homes with a not-so-happy ending?

Some stories, like “Hansel and Gretel,” are grounded in the very real instances where parents would abandon their children in the woods because they were so poor and could not take care of them. Some of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales turn out to be quite more gruesome than their Walt Disney counterparts of today. Many still look at folk tales for their lessons that still resonate today.

“We need to look at the world through the children’s eyes,” Maynard said.

In order to recreate the cozy German town setting on stage, Maynard enlisted the talents of Kay Mason, who created the sets for last year’s Smoky Mountain Community Theatre production of “Beauty and the Beast.” For “Pied Piper,” Mason built a mini village set complete with buildings, flower boxes and cobblestone paths. And true to the spirit of the play, the pied piper Emily Ingle will play a pennywhistle flute for the show.

For more information about upcoming Smoky Mountain Community Theatre events — such as the June 2 Stage Door Auction — go to the theatre’s website or call 828.488.3489.

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