A royal return 

Stealing Sugar gets better with age

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Whose mind doesn't wander when confronted by the mundane tasks of domestic life? The tedium of sweeping floors, the ick factor of dishwashing and the horrors of laundry are all excellent vehicles for realizing fantasies. When confronted with grass stains or, worse, skid marks, isn't it only human to imagine a life without such demeaning tasks?

Birgitta DePree explores these conflicting emotions in her one-woman show, Stealing Sugar.

Like countless fanciful daydreams, the protagonist's journey explores the intersection between reality and fantasy, truth and fiction. The show follows the self-proclaimed Queen of Foldable Laundry, a homemaker whose rich fantasy life is revealed every time she does the laundry. Removing stains and folding clothes become evocative metaphors for the life changes the protagonist imagines for herself. DePree describes it as a search for a "significant" life.

While a specific geographic location is never mentioned and the identity of the protagonist's family is left to speculation, she isn't exactly an Everywoman. Rather, she is a quirky, imaginative woman whose purpose in life is ambiguous.

The royal fantasies in which she indulges lead her from an otherwise meager existence toward hope and possibility. Her "queenly" title explains the royal fixation, a fantasy that is also fueled by a generous interest -- bordering on obsession -- in Princess Di.

After a sold-out premiere run last spring, DePree and director Jim Jackson (both co-founders of the Manitou Art Theater) decided to revamp the show for a second run. Audiences who enjoyed the first version have little to fear, however.

"We took what worked and streamlined it, and we fine-tuned the transitions, which are often the hardest part of a solo show, since there are so many characters for one person to play," DePree says.

This newest incarnation of Stealing Sugar features several new characters, including one derived from a familial catalyst.

"My daughter Elizabeth was playing one day and she put a bra on her head," DePree explains. "The white cotton padding stuck up around her ears and it reminded me of one of those little starched headpieces you see in old Dutch paintings, and I thought, 'That character has got something to say -- just let her say it!' And suddenly this new character was born."

The leap from a bra-capped head to a Dutch painting is just a taste of the unconventional ways in which DePree is inspired.

"It always feels a little bit self-serving to promote your own solo show," she admits, "but this show has such a life of its own. I'm just the vessel!"

-- Bettina Swigger


Stealing Sugar featuring Birgitta DePree

Manitou Art Theater, 515 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs

May 12, 13 and 14 at 8 p.m.

$14 general admission; 685-4729 or www.themat.org


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