SAMHSA’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance,
Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with
Mental Health (ADS Center)
Fidgety Fairy Tales
St. Paul, Minnesota
Fidgety Fairy Tales—The Mental Health Musical is an original 40-minute musical produced by the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health (MACMH) and performed by an ensemble of talented youth. The Tales feature storybook characters who are displaying symptoms of a mental health disorder such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), Anxiety Disorder, and Depression. Fidgety Fairy Tales combats the negative and damaging stereotypes that surround mental illness by portraying children with mental health disorders as the heroes rather than the villains.
Portrayals of mental illness on TV, in movies, and in theatre often reinforce negative stereotypes and people with mental illnesses are often portrayed as violent villains, victims of ridicule, or abnormal people who should be shut away. Words such as "crazy," "nutty," "schizo," "psycho," or "loony" are frequently used to describe characters who are not considered normal.
Fidgety Fairy Tales seeks to raise awareness and reduce the negative attitudes associated with mental illness by creating a musical theatre production that portrays children with mental health disorders as positive characters, instead of as villains, who require understanding and support. Fidgety Fairy Tales explores not only the challenges that children with mental health disorders struggle with, but also some of the patterns of behavior that give them unique, often unrecognized, advantages. It is an empowering experience for the cast members to portray such characters and a unique opportunity for children with mental health disorders to see their experiences compassionately reflected onstage.
Fidgety Fairy Tales—The Mental Health Musicalwas created by writer/director Matt Jenson and composer/lyricist Marya Hart. The cast is composed of youth ages 8–18. Some of the cast members have diagnosed mental health disorders, and some have family members with mental health disorders. The Tales include storybook characters such as Little Red Riding Hood who is easily distracted on the path to Granny’s house, Rapunzel who experiences intense fear and only feels safe in her tower without doors or stairs, and Sleeping Handsome, a teenage prince whose constant sadness and feeling of hopelessness makes it impossible for him to get out of bed.
Since its premiere in March 2008, Fidgety Fairy Tales—The Mental Health Musical has been performed for over 3,000 audience members at venues such as the Mall of America, Duluth Children’s Museum, Fairview Behavioral Services Adolescent Day Treatment Program, and the St. Paul Jewish Community Center. It is currently touring to schools throughout Minnesota.
Program director Matt Jensen said the response has been overwhelming. The production has been featured in newspaper articles, radio interviews, and TV news segments. Most of the performances filled to capacity before people received their postcard in the mail. Additional performances were added and also filled. Other organizations have expressed a strong interest in producing their own version of Fidgety Fairy Tales, and MACMH has received requests from all over the country for the script. A sequel is currently in development.
For more information contact Matt Jenson, 165 Western Ave. North, Suite 2, St. Paul, MN 55102; phone: 651–644–7333; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site: www.macmh.org/fidgety-fairy-tales/.