'Hans the Obscure!' brings out darker side of Hans Christian Andersen

Hans the Obscure! creator Larry Ripp credits classic children's show Captain Kangaroo and a nighttime hunt for something to read for the genesis of his new show.

"I used to watch Captain Kangaroo all the time, and one of the stories he would tell was 'The Tinderbox,' which I always loved," Ripp says. "Then a few years ago, I was looking for something to read at bedtime and remembered the tale, so I pulled out a collection of Hans Christian Andersen stories."

That collection included "The Tinderbox," but as Ripp read on, he found other, lesser-known tales that seemed perfect for the stage. Ripp and his Mindless Mirth Productions will present a trio of stories starting this weekend at the Bryant-Lake Bowl.

The three tales, "Little Claus and Big Claus," "It's Perfectly True," and "Clod Hans," showcase a more adult approach to storytelling than Andersen's more famous children's tales, like "The Little Mermaid" and "The Princess and the Pea."

There's a darkness in these stories -- which include hens plucking each other to death and a trickster servant convincing his master to climb into a burlap sack and toss himself into a river to find gold -- that brings Ripp to call Andersen the "Alfred Hitchcock of the 19th century."

It's not all death and destruction. "Clod Hans" is a twist on the Cinderella story, where a henpecked brother gets one up on his favored brothers when they meet a Princess. "One has memorized the newspaper, the other the guild regulations, which they think will impress the Princess. Hans's father won't even give him a horse to ride, so he rides his goat. Along the way, he finds things like a dead crow, which he believes will impress her. In the end, he does end up charming the Princess," Ripp says. 

Ripp and the company of actors have worked on the show for three months. Adapting work is a new adventure for Ripp. "It's something I've wanted to do for a long time and here's something about it that appeals to me," he says. "I only do things I can be excited about."


Hans the Obscure!
7 p.m. Sunday and Monday, Jan. 15, 22, and 29
Bryant-Lake Bowl
810 W. Lake St., Minneapolis
$12 and $15
For information, call 612.825.8949 or visit online.

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