‘Cenicienta: A Bilingual Cinderella Story’ speaks to community in two languages


Photo courtesy of Krannert Center

In “Cenicienta: A Bilingual Cinderella Story,” a play making its way to the Krannert Center for Performing Arts, Madison Palomo plays 18 characters and has been the lead actor in the one-woman show for five years.

By A. Oishii Basu, Staff Writer

“Cenicienta: A Bilingual Cinderella Story” is a children’s play about Belinda, a 10-year-old storyteller, finding courage in her retelling of the classic fairy tale by puppeteering household objects. Touring the country, it stopped at the Krannert Studio Theatre on Saturday.

Madison Palomo has been the starring actress of this one-woman play for five years and plays 18 characters in total.

Emily Laugesen, program director and collaborative curator of the Krannert Youth Series, said the program aims to expose youth of all ages to the arts.

Laugesen said she’s thrilled to welcome an audience back after a pause because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The youth program curates professional touring shows and acts of a wide variety.

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“This play is a really great example of something that really works on multiple levels for multiple ages,” Laugesen said. “Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and also random teenagers that might come can just enjoy this show.”

A production in both English and Spanish, the play brings a unique viewing opportunity to the audience.

“It brings a little bit of representation,” Laugesen said. “We know we have a very vibrant community of people who are Spanish language speakers, many of whom have Mexican heritage, the culture this piece is rooted in. And so it’s really important to us to speak to that part of our community as well.”

The play follows Belinda, an imaginative kid who loves stories and poems. She explores her interests by making imaginary friends, such as Ernesto and Gustavo, out of lamp heads and eventually Cenicienta, who is a cloth napkin.

Belinda and Cenicienta soon begin to relate to one another through their parallel experiences, and Belinda learns through her own storytelling.

Palomo said her work with the show began at a cultural festival and was workshopped at elementary schools in Texas. Belinda’s poems, featured in the play, were actually written by fourth graders.

Palomo later began to tour across the country.

Palomo said the production process has been challenging and eye-opening.

“This is a theater for young audiences,” Palomo said. “I feel like a lot of people dismiss it as something that is going to be campy. It’s been a beautiful show to work on and to stretch my acting abilities. Each time, it’s just like another opportunity to not only play, as if I were a kid again, but work on my craft.”

Palomo said although sometimes it can be difficult to keep children engaged, young audiences have the best criticism.

“Kids are the best audience because they are honest,” Palomo said. “They will tell you if you’re not doing a good job in their own little way.”

Palomo said she began learning to puppeteer on the production and said it has given her a newfound appreciation for the art.

“I think all actors should take a master class on it,” Palomo said. “That way we have that scope and have that ability to perform more stories.”

There are many unique aspects of the play, but Palomo thinks the bilingualism of the production is integral.

“It’s a coming-of-age story,” Palomo said. “It has a mixture between Spanish and English. And in a way, the stepmother is trying to take away culture from her by mispronouncing her name, not using Spanish. The (stepsisters) even making fun of her speaking in Spanish.”

Palomo said she thinks this play is relevant to people of all ages.

“It’s so important for not only young kids to watch this but for adults as well who have experienced this language genocide,” Palomo said.


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