Commentary: Getting your frocks muddyby Marianne Combs, Minnesota Public Radio
Little House on the Prairie - the musical - begins preview performances tomorrow night at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. The show has garnered international attention, and broken all previous records for ticket sales at the theater.
Melissa Gilbert, the actress who played Laura on the long running television series, is in the musical, this time playing the role of the mother.
For Minnesota Public Radio's Marianne Combs, the hype around the show brings back memories of her youth.
St. Paul, Minn. — A commentary by Marianne Combs:
As a redhead with freckles on my nose, I will always feel a certain connection to Laura Ingalls Wilder. And by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I don't mean the books - although I enjoyed those - I mean actress Melissa Gilbert's portrayal of Laura in the television series.
The truth of the matter is that the real Laura Ingalls Wilder had brown hair. But to me, she will always be a plucky red head.
If you grew up in the '70s and '80s as a redheaded girl, you were destined to embrace a very specific series of girl heroines. As a toddler I had a Raggedy Ann doll on my bed - bright red yarn for hair, dressed in loud red and white striped stockings and a white frock. Raggedy Andy? He was just a sidekick. Ann stole the show with her crazy grin and big eyes. The message was ingrained from early on - as a redhead you will have no fashion sense, but you will have fun.
In elementary school it was Little Orphan Annie. Again - big red hair, big eyes and happily in charge of making a crazy mess of things - even when she was cleaning up.
I remember singing "it's a hard knock life" when mom would make me do chores. If I was grumpy I could always pretend Daddy Warbucks would adopt me. But even Little Orphan Annie couldn't compete with the craziest redhead of them all - Pippi Longstocking.
Pippi had no time for boys - she was too busy riding her horse, rollerskating around her big house, and leading the neighbor kids into adventures that scared their parents. Pippi didn't care what she looked like, and she was generous with her wealth, once buying 84 pounds of candy for anyone who wanted to share.
She may have been wacky, but she was still a great role model for a similarly redheaded girl trying to find her own way.
Then adolescence set in. It was the perfect time to get engrossed in television series like Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables, with their own firey-redheaded stars.
It didn't take much convincing to believe that pretty blonde girls were stuck up and mean, and that the cute boys would eventually realize their tomboy best friend cleaned up nicely.
That being said, Laura Ingalls Wilder still wasn't afraid of getting her frocks muddy, if it was for a just cause. And Anne of Green Gables, with her particular sense of melodrama, was also known to fits of temper. It led her to smash her slate over a boy's head for calling her "carrots" and pulling on her braids.
Both Laura and Anne of Green Gables grew up to be fine young women, who eventually stopped playing in the mud, got some fashion sense, and won the hearts of the men they loved. And they learned their red hair was beautiful.
I've done much the same, but I'd like to think I still have room for a little Pippi Longstocking craziness, Orphan Annie pluck, and getting my frocks muddy, when it's called for.
- All Things Considered, 07/25/2008, 4:45 p.m.