FRINGE 2017: 'What She Found There'

Shadow puppets, dance and spoken word are used to create often beautiful stage pictures of how storybook romantic readiness gives way to torture and death at the hands of men.

What She Found There is a devised work by Caroline Stine and InBocca Performance that theatrically deconstructs and reconstructs the French fairy tale of Bluebeard (a tale that also holds prominence in Queen City Flash’s The Disappearance of Nicole Jacobs). Six white-gowned women (Ashley Morton, Katelyn Crotty, Mandy May Miller, Kellyn Dolezal, Ellie Conniff and Brandi Botkin) and Stine (dressed in red) use shadow puppets, dance and spoken word to create often beautiful stage pictures of how storybook romantic readiness gives way to torture and death at the hands of men.

In the Bluebeard tale, a woman (played by Stine) marries a strange man. He leaves her alone in the castle with a ring of keys and instructions that she may not use the smallest key to open the door of a particular room. She does and discovers the dead bodies of all the wives (the other cast members). She drops the key in the blood and cannot clean it off. Thus she sets her fate.

There are some lovely and powerful moments, particularly with the dead wives, a strong and compelling ensemble. Transitions are clunky and lighting and sound design could be enhanced. 

Stine is explicit in the program, in her opening welcome and in the resolution of this theater piece that she is deeply angered by violence against women. I get that. She is also explicitly angry at men, so much so that she has confusingly confused the moral of the original tale with her own. Stine also states that she doesn’t make political work, yet her work seems to be entirely political.

Stine is a force with a laser-focused mission and a very real voice to be reckoned with. Much of the writing is beautiful. Much of the movement, too. Yet this particular piece felt more like the staged equivalent of the Kathy Griffin/Trump photo than, say, The Handmaid’s Tale. In these times, it is hard not to fight hard and loud. Perhaps I will later reflect on this piece and Stine’s work and think, “Nevertheless, she…”

The CINCINNATI FRINGE FESTIVAL continues through June 11. Find CityBeat reviews of 41 early performances here. For a full schedule and more info about Fringe, visit

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