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Reflections through the Eyes of The Ugly Duckling

In 2021, Place des Arts created a free, all-ages, online event to celebrate Coquitlam’s diversity and contribute to the discussion around the importance of belonging.

Director Susan Bertoia adapted Hans Christensen Andersen’s classic and universal fairy tale The Ugly Duckling. This story is a unique autobiographical tale of Andersen’s early life and hardship with fitting into the “right” society. Many children and adults can associate with the Duckling character as someone who is teased or does not know where they belong. Everyone needs to find a way to feel they fit in, whether it’s with family, friends, community or yourself.

There are four chapters, and each chapter consists of multiple components.

First, view the visual art piece that captures a part of the story. Search for the hidden swan motif in each. Listen to the adapted story or read the story yourself. Watch the video monologue performed by actors that were inspired by the story and the theme of belonging. Colour in, write on or draw on the colouring sheets provided to share your story of belonging.

Find a connection you might have with the story of the Ugly Duckling and with belonging and ask yourself, how do I belong here?

Directors Note

If you ever thought that fairy tales were just for kids, then you must reconsider this notion and go deeper. Andersen’s tale of the Ugly Duckling is a unique autobiographical tale of his early life and hardship with fitting into the “right” society. What an amazing and clever way to share one’s struggles and triumphs. As adults, we have a tendency to relegate the reading of fairy tales to children solely for the purpose of amusement or to support some moral truth. Perhaps seen through the eyes of a child, this tale might come across as a scary yet funny romp from being the underdog to being triumphant. And yet, sadly, many kids can probably associate with someone who is teased or left out with peers. But it is in these moments, hard as they are, that we begin to strengthen our inner selves. We belong to something so much bigger than a word describing us. Adults and kids, old and young, all find a way to belong, whether it’s with family, friends, community or ultimately yourself. In these extraordinary times, we are forced to look deep inside ourselves, confront isolation and pull ourselves into a space where we accept that belonging even in fairy tales written by long-gone writers, is possible.

Welcome people, welcome all.

Enter curiously into the story.

Find a connection you might have with the story of the Ugly Duckling and with belonging.

Seek in each realm the hidden swan motif.

Listen to the adapted story, read it aloud or act it out.

Watch the videos that were inspired by this tale and ponder your version.

Ask yourself, how do I belong here?

Good stories reveal so much.

And a story will find its way into your life whether you’re ready or not!

Listen to the full story in English here:

We want to hear from you!

After you finish filling in a colouring sheet, you can share your work on social media using the hashtag #ibelong2021 or by email to We may share your work on their social media, newsletter or as a gallery on this website. Please visit our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter @pdacoquitlam during March for prompts about belonging and engage with others by telling your story. You belong with Place des Arts.


Artist Bios


Theatre artist, writer, director, teacher and owner of waterproof runners for Vancouver weather. In my early years, when I was dressing up as characters from Gilligan’s Island in my backyard, I realized I belong to the world of make-believe and urgent imagination. After numerous attempts, I was accepted into the theatre program at UBC, and upon completion, I was handed a Bachelor’s degree that hangs in my parent’s house to this day. Since then, I’ve ventured into many curious creative ventures ranging from leading cooking and walking tours in Tuscany; to climbing a 30 ft tree to perform as Mother Superior at a show in Stanley Park; to donning ½ masks and playing commedia dell’arte scenarios on the streets of Vancouver and gymnasiums throughout Northern BC. Further curiosity led me to devised theatre – which, for me means making theatre from ideas and images rather than text first. For me, poetry and life force guide story. Sometimes, I capture these moments on my cell phone and continue to revel in how light shines in dark places. I devise performances and happily pass my creative legacy onto as a teaching theatre artist in all types of schools. I am blessed to have three lovely, amazing ducklings in my life that truly keep me afloat.

“I belong the most in a community of supportive and creative people. Communities like theatre, film and art. When these communities are at their best they’re like a second family and that’s what makes them so special.”

Marcus is a Lower Mainland-based, Set, Prop and Costume Designer.

He is also a co-founder of Let Me Know Studio, a collectively run studio near International Village open to the public to support local artists in need of a space to display their work.

Marcus Vaillant is a 2018 graduate of Studio 58.

One of the BC’s Wedding Awards finalists and owner of 3 small businesses encompassing the event industry. Alex’s passion has progressed as he transitioned through the arts to audio/video production in the past 20 years. Starting from a young age as a creative artist and entrepreneur, he still makes time in his busy schedule for his favourite things like morning coffees, lake boating, or indulging in Adam’s peanut butter.


View the Actor Bios here

Thank you to those who made this event possible:


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