Performing arts troupe’s original winter tale addresses grief, life after death

The Columbus counselor’s original stories carry the label of innocent fairy tales. But the characters speak of life and death issues of complexity — in simple terms that spotlight healthy emotions.

Cecile Beavin, writer and director with the local Fairy Tale Musical Theatre, weaves gently presented life lessons — read that as non-preachy — into heartwarming plays wrapped in her extensive and elaborate costuming. She always prefers that the volunteer troupe’s overviews focus somewhere beyond her.

“This really isn’t about me,” she regularly reminds others.

Yet, members of the group for several years have compared her messages to those wrapped in Muppet-style presentations — fun, whimsical stories with a serious impact for youngsters and adults alike.

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Such is the case with the theater company’s latest musical, “The Baboushka and The Snow Child,” set to unfold at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the 150-seat Pixy Theatre in Edinburgh.

It seems Queen Ursala has lost her husband and young child to death in a snow storm — and remained stuck in her palace while refusing to grieve openly until a character named Father Winter blows onto the scene. Beavin wrote the story after watching fifth-year cast member and Edinburgh resident Holly Burton, who plays Ursala in the show, struggle through the death of her father in March.

“I definitely had her in mind,” Beavin said of her writing early this year. “And I knew some people who had suffered job losses. So the question becomes, ‘How do you go on with life in those situations? You definitely don’t want to be isolated.’”

In fact, especially as a counselor, Beavin knows that life moves in seasons. That explains how she came to include The Byrds’ classic 1960s tune, “Turn, Turn, Turn” in the show.

Burton, who first performed as a 8-year-old on the Pixy stage in a town presentation of “Cheaper By the Dozen” in 1982, loves the idea of being a part of plays at the venue that many believe dates to the 1940s, according to online histories. As a longtime lover of singing and “an awesome bathroom performer,” as she put it, she knows the power of a song.

“I’ve always believed that music can really move people,” Burton said.

And a stage production can sneak past people’s defenses and burrow deep into their heart, she believes. Burton knows people even now who won’t openly acknowledge that they have long battled grief or depression, but find themselves weighed down by the painful past.

She herself once used her Fairy Tale performance a few years to escape her own depression.

“You can talk to somebody about things like grief and loss until you are blue in the face,” Burton said. “But, a lot of people don’t like to be talked to about this. And everybody deals with things differently.

“Coming to something like this, though, you get a message wrapped in entertainment — if people are open to it.”

Fairy Tale began with its make-life-count theme more than 15 years ago in the Beavins’ Brown County cabin living room. And it has become just one element of the arts in a Pixy calendar filled with comedy, concerts and other events.

“At one time, the arts around here were pretty dead,” Burton said.

But now the small Pixy can be an instrument for big messages — including one about finding new life after death.

If you go

What: The original Fairy Tale Musical Theatre production of “The Baboushka and the The Snow Child,” a parable of sorts for children and adults about moving beyond grief and loss into the other seasons of life.

When: 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Where: The Pixy Theatre, 111 S. Walnut St. in Edinburgh.

Admission: Donations of any amount to help with the maintenance and repair of the Pixy.

Information: Cecile and Michael Beavin at 812-988-6854.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.