Doug Derrer (Narrator), DeeDee Grierson (Little Red Riding Hood), Martha McGuff (Mom), Susan Barton (Grandmother), Don Shelby (Wolf), Bryn Rigby (Forest Ranger Dave)

Sun City group performs fairy tales

We’re the Mad Hatters, and we’re here to say:
We’ve come to tell a story on this winter day.
So settle on down, and put your hands in your lap;
And when we’re all done, we hope you clap, clap, clap.
This is the end of our rap, our rhyme
Our story begins with . . .

“Once upon a time” begins the narrator, her voice bolstered by the joined voices of Cooper Elementary School’s second graders. They’re old hands now, having seen a variety of Mad Hatters fairy tale performances since their preschool year in the Georgetown Independent School District. Many know the rhyming introduction by heart.

The performance, however, will be new to them. Sun City’s Mad Hatters theatre group makes sure of that, selecting a rotating schedule of nine fairy tales to perform for students at each of Georgetown’s elementary schools.

“The thinking,” says Martha McGuff, this year’s Mad Hatters coordinator for the elementary schools, “is that if a child stays in the Georgetown school system from pre-K through second and hears one story per semester, they’ll have been exposed to all of the stories by the time they leave the second grade.”

To reach all of these students, Sun City has two Mad Hatters groups: one that performs for preschool children and another that presents fairy tales to elementary students in kindergarten, first, and second grade.

Both groups don plain black clothing and remain seated in chairs throughout the stories, says Martha, but “even though we’re sitting there, we are telling the tale instead of just reading it. . . . We’re trying to make the characters come alive.” To distinguish each character from the others, cast members take along additional small props such as hats, scarves, and gloves. Performers bow their heads until their characters speak.

Costumes also help students identify each character. This past fall, for example, when the group performed the beloved classic “Little Red Riding Hood,” Little Red wore a red cape, while the mother and grandmother wore bonnets. The wily wolf wore a wolf mask, a red bowtie, a tail, gloved paws, and . . . an Old Navy shirt.

“Though the essence of each story is still the same, some of the language has been updated to make the tales more relatable,” Martha says. “For example, in ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears,’ when Papa Bear complains to Mama Bear that his porridge is too hot, Mama Bear looks over at him and says, ‘Oh, Papa Bear, you know I don’t know how to use this new microwave oven!’” That usually gets a big laugh from the [kids],” Martha says. “It’s a real delight because you can look out at the children’s faces and see that they’re into the story with you. . . . You know they’re really listening.”

Mad Hatters is an affiliate of Sun City’s charter club AcTAG—Actors and Theatre Arts Guild—and of the Linda Day Performing Arts Foundation. For more information, visit

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