The Little Mermaid is the titular heroine of Hans Christian Andersen’s 19th century story. The youngest of her father, the Sea King’s, daughters, The Little Mermaid longs to experience the human world. She spends time on the sea’s surface, and thus witnesses a shipwreck and saves a man from drowning. Her grandmother tells her that in order to gain an immortal soul, like the humans have, so that she too may one day join the world above the stars, a man must love her more than anyone else and a priest must place their hands together. The Little Mermaid visits the Sea Witch who gives her legs in exchange for her voice, and warns her that to walk on them will cause her excruciating pain. The Prince finds The Little Mermaid on the shore, but does not recognize her as the woman who saved him. He takes her to the palace where she becomes like a page girl to him. He marries another, and The Little Mermaid’s sisters tell her she must kill him with a knife to get her fin back. She rejects this and casts herself into the sea, where the Daughters of the Air, impressed with her suffering, tell her she may also attain an immortal soul by–like them–doing good works for 300 years.
In the piece, Anne Heintz writes a drama about a couple who have grown apart, and I’m also retelling The Little Mermaid in largely parodic fashion throughout the show. In the show, a Literature professor has married a woman who was a student of his, who took his class on 19th century European literature. He stays at home with their child while she works. The show centers around bath-time for their daughter, on the night when the tension which has been simmering between the couple erupts. As they fight over what they are to each other at this pointin their relationship, they flash back to when she was in his class and she and her friends performed a theatrical version of The Little Mermaid. She had enjoined the Professor to play the Prince; and this play was the stimulus for their relationship, as she brought out the “silly” in him. Amidst the parody, the story’s heartrending themes of longing to experience beyond what’s known; not getting what you want; and suffering for love emerge and inform the current-day conflicts.
THE LITTLE MERMAID by Anne Heintz
Directed by Michael Robison
Staged Reading on November 19, 2021 at The EXIT Theatre
Anne Heintz represented the USA at an international playwriting festival for young artists called Interplay, held in Townsville, Australia. Her most recent academic scholarship may be found in the Springer Handbook for Digital Learning in K-12 Schools. She is the co-author of two practitioner volumes for teachers, published by Guilford Press and Teachers College Press. Her fiction piece, Not Exacta, was featured at Spillers, a performance art event showcasing Arizona writers. She has a Ph.D. in Educational Technology from Michigan State University; a G.D. in Directing from Victorian College of the Arts at the University of Melbourne; and a B.A. in English and in Theater from the University of Arizona.