Doug Wright on Adapting The Little Mermaid for the Stage

This is the first theater piece I’ve ever worked on that has tap-dancing sea gulls, confetti cannons and a giant bubble machine.  And I gotta tell ya: I think every show benefits from the presence of a giant bubble machine and a few tap-dancing sea gulls.  I’m certainly putting them in my future works.”

Bookwriter Doug Wright talks The Little Mermaid in “In The Wings.”


Youth Dramaturgs Investigate “The Little Mermaid”

The youth dramaturgs offered insightful ideas that surprised both the director and me. They deeply identified with the Mermaid’s desire to be something more than herself—to go on adventures and see the world and to finally fit into a world that she so badly wanted to be a part of. The students also felt she may have made this decision out of rebellion—a stubborn refusal to follow the path that her father and grandmother laid out for her. Some of them also connected with the idea that perhaps the Mermaid was living a lie—that she was trying to live in a body that wasn’t indicative of who she really was.”

As a dramaturg who is not quite so young, I love this article by Meg Greene.  I hope that we can connect with our audiences—of all ages—in such a complex and compelling, yet playful, way.

Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen was born in a one-room house in Odense, Denmark in 1805. His father read him Arabian Nights, but died when he was 11. His mother worked as a washerwoman and remarried in 1818. Andersen went to school intermittently and spent a lot of time in his imagination. He was very good at memorization and liked to recite plays and imitate dancers and acrobats.

His mother apprenticed him to a weaver, then a tobacconist, then a tailor. At 14, Andersen left to seek his fortune in Copenhagen instead. In Copenhagen, Andersen struggled to make ends meet for three years, singing in the Royal Theater’s boys’ choir until his voice changed, then attempting careers in acting and ballet. However, Andersen was an awkward performer and unsuccessful.

At 17, Jonas Collin, a director of the Royal Theater, read a play by Andersen and saw his potential. Collin received funding from King Frederik VI to educate Andersen. His first publication, in Danish, came in 1829. In 1833 he received royal funding to travel, spending 16 months in Germany, France, Switzerland, and Italy. He wrote about his travels in addition to the poems, plays, and novels that he produced. After this period, he continued to travel widely, living for nearly 15 years outside of Denmark.

In 1835, Andersen published Fairy Tales for Children, his first four fairy tales. He ultimately wrote 165 more of the stories, including “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “Thumbelina,” “The Snow Queen,” “The Ugly Duckling,” “The Princess and the Pea,” “The Little Match Girl,” and of course “The Little Mermaid.” On an 1847 visit to England, he met Charles Dickens. He visited Dickens ten years later, but overstayed his welcome, after which Dickens stopped their correspondence.

Andersen developed liver cancer and died in 1875. He was considered a national treasure in Denmark and a statue of him stands in the Rosenborg Castle Gardens in Copenhagen.  

Annotated Hans Christian Andersen Tale

FAR out in the ocean, where the water is as blue as the prettiest cornflower, and as clear as crystal, it is very, very deep; so deep, indeed, that no cable could fathom it: many church steeples, piled one upon another, would not reach from the ground beneath to the surface of the water above. There dwell the Sea King and his subjects.”

Check out the full fairy tale that became our beloved film and stage musical.

Original Danish Manuscript of The Little Mermaid

“The manuscript for ‘The Little Mermaid’ was stolen from The Hans Christian Andersen Museum in July 1992 along with the manuscripts for ‘The Elf Mound,’ ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes,’ and other objects. Thus we are reduced to present a scan of a facsimile at this place. We take the opportunity to encourage everyone who might have any knowledge of the further destiny of the manuscripts to contact us! The original manuscript was a draft. It was written in the summer of 1836 and the fairy tale was published on April 7th, 1837 in ‘Eventyr, fortalte for Børn, Første Samling. Tredje Hæfte. 1837.'”