Asheville’s Monica McDaniel reinvents a fairytale with “Riding Hood”

The writer’s newest work explores love, identity, and depression through the humorous lens of the classic tale.

riding hood cast monica mcdaniel

The Ashevillian playwright (center) asks you to approach the familiar story with an open mind.

Photo via Monica McDaniel

We all know the original tale. A little girl in a bright red hood and a big, bad wolf, a grandmother and a simple lesson of not trusting strangers. But Monica McDaniel’s new original play “Riding Hood” — which she wrote, produced, and directed — is not the “Little Red Riding Hood” you may know.

For one, you’ll get to see Asheville as the adaptation’s backdrop. Monica’s family has been in the area for 130 years, and the city of the play is one of her past. The proverbial journey through the woods starts in the Stumptown neighborhood and wanders all the way to Shiloh.

“In my mind, we’re back in the 80s when it was two Black communities,” says Monica. “And back then there was a lot of walking, a lot of dirt roads, only a couple of streetlights — that’s the Asheville I grew up in.”

But sure, in this once upon a time, Little Red Riding Hood is still on her way to grandmother’s house with muffins in tow — although she’s also bringing cards so grandmother can play spades with her seniors club. She does meet a wolf (well, two wolves), but the conflict and the characters will not be what you remember. There are secrets, and there is darkness. Before the journey is over, the protagonist will travel to the biblical Lo-debar, a place of sadness whose name means “no pasture,” and try to make it out safely.

At the same time, Monica doesn’t want you to get the impression that this story is going to be all dark and gloomy — there’s laughter, music, dancing, and an homage to the legendary Big Mama Thornton. It explores love, Black identity, and family on the way out of the woods.

“Riding Hood” will be shown on Friday, Sept. 8 at UNC Asheville’s Carol Belk Theatre and Saturday, Sept. 9 at the Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Community Center.

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