Pitt State Theatre presents fairytale with an atypical leading princess 

A story based on the beloved fairytale “The Princess and the Pea” will be brought to life by Pitt State Theatre this month with a princess who is anything but typical. 

“She swims moats, lift weights, and isn’t waiting for a prince to save her,” said Megan Westhoff, director of “Once Upon a Mattress,” which will open in the Miller Theatre in the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts on Oct. 27 and run through Oct. 30. 

Pitt State Theatre is a university-based theater company under the direction of the Department of Communication and is “in residence” at the Bicknell Center. 

The musical tells the story of Princess Winnifred the Woebegone — a shy and awkward girl looking to win the heart of Prince Dauntless. But there’s one problem. His overbearing mother, Queen Aggravain, will do anything to stop him from getting married.  

Set in a small and faraway kingdom a long time ago, it features the talkative Queen Aggravain (Jenna Russell of Oswego) who rules alongside her cursed husband, King Sextimus (Zach Kamm of Basehor), who cannot speak.  

The Queen decrees that until Dauntless (Ryan Bennett of Overland Park) marries, the entire kingdom cannot wed. Then, another problem arises: The knight Sir Harry (Dane DeTar of Coffeyville) and his beloved Lady Larken (Mary Jo Peterson of Wichita) are going to have a baby, so a true princess must be found — and soon.  

Sir Harry’s perilous journey takes him to the distant swamps in the marshland to discover Princess Winnifred (Kimberly Arzoian of Pittsburg) and bring her to the castle. As with every young princess who has come before, the Queen intends to sabotage the efforts of Winnifred by devising a test to see if she can feel one tiny pea under a pile of 20 mattresses.  

“Winnifred is not concerned with fitting in and isn’t afraid to be her true self,” Westhoff said. “A heroine like Winnifred is a meaningful musical character for children and adults to see on stage. When it’s easier to try to blend in with society, she is unapologetically herself — a woman who is kind, adventurous, and strong.” 

Bring the whole family to find out if Winnifred will be the one true princess to pass the Queen’s impossible test, marry her true love, and allow the rest of the kingdom to live happily-ever-after. 

Audiences will recognize the artistic team, including Linden Little, scenic and lighting designer, Lisa Quinteros, costume designer, Kimberly Arzoian, music director, and Elizabeth Hayes, choreographer. Stage managers are Tayler Matthews (Nevada, Missouri) and Madi Correll (Leavenworth, Kansas).  

Members of the court are Michaela Henningsen (Joplin, Missouri) as the Minstrel, Nik Spencer (Webb City, Missouri) as the Wizard, Chantel Shaw (Pittsburg) as the Jester, and Brynn Sukraw (Pittsburg) as the Young Jester.  

The ensemble of ladies in waiting and knights are played by Annabella Beachner (Saint Paul), Kat Hudiburg (Fort Scott), Leah McDonald (Lamar, Missouri), Grace Springer (Mound City), Jerry Middleton (Parsons), and Jarod Sheko (Columbus). 

Of note 

The 1959 off-Broadway premier is what got comedian Carol Burnett "discovered” in New York City and went on to have a healthy run of 460 performances on Broadway. It was nominated against The Sound of Music for Best Musical in the 1960 Tony Awards and earned Burnett her first Tony nomination for Best Actress. After the close of the Broadway run, it was produced for TV in 1964 and in 1972, with Burnett reprising her role both times. In 1995, it returned to Broadway, starring Sarah Jessica Parker. 


Performances are planned for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 27-29, and 2 p.m. Oct. 29-30. PSU faculty, staff, and students with a PSU ID are admitted free.  

Tickets are $12 for the general public, $7 for under 17 or over 64, and free to PSU students/faculty/staff with a valid PSU photo ID.  

Tickets are available through the PSU Ticket Office, Room 137 of the Garfield Weede Building. They may be purchased by calling 620-235-4796, or at www.pittstate.edu/tickets, or at the door approximately 30 minutes prior to curtain. Purchasing tickets in advance is strongly encouraged as seating is limited.