THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
21st November, 2019 0
The Snow Queen is an original Danish fairy tale written by author Hans Christian Andersen that has resonated through the consciousness of generations since the tale was first published in December of 1844. The story is also one of Andersen’s longest and most highly acclaimed stories, largely because in many ways it framed the architecture on the universal struggle between good and evil - in this instance, as it is experienced by two young children, Gerda and her friend Kai.
Over the decades of its glittering history, The Snow Queen has been performed as a musical, in staged theatrical versions, and as a movie; and from December 6-8 & 13-15th, the ambitious troupe at Bay City Players will be producing their own version of this charming, delightful, and chillingly compelling morality tale, written by Ron Nicol, under the watchful eye and discerning direction of Jessica McFarland.
The essence of the narrative centers upon the devil (in the form of an evil troll) who has made a magic mirror that distorts the appearance of everything it reflects. The magic mirror fails to reflect the good and beautiful aspects of people and things, and magnifies their bad and ugly aspects. The devil, who is headmaster at a troll school, takes the mirror and his pupils throughout the world, delighting in using it to distort everyone and everything. They attempt to carry the mirror into heaven in order to make fools of the angels and God, but the higher they lift it, the more the mirror shakes with laughter, and it slips from their grasp and falls back to earth, shattering into billions of pieces, some no larger than a grain of sand. The splinters are blown by the wind all over the Earth and get into people's hearts and eyes, freezing their hearts like blocks of ice and making their eyes like the troll-mirror itself, seeing only the bad and ugly in people and things.
Years later, a little boy Kai and a little girl Gerda live next door to each other and become devoted to each other as playmates, and as close as if they were siblings. Kai's grandmother tells the children about the Snow Queen, who is ruler over the "snow bees" — snowflakes that look like bees. As bees have a queen, so do the snow bees, and she is seen where the snowflakes cluster the most. Looking out of his frosted window one winter, Kai sees the Snow Queen, who beckons him to come with her. Kai draws back in fear from the window. However, splinters of the troll-mirror get into Kai's heart and eyes. Kai becomes cruel and aggressive. He makes fun of his grandmother, and he no longer cares about Gerda, since everyone now appears bad and ugly to him. The only beautiful and perfect things to him now are the tiny snowflakes that he sees through a magnifying glass.
Given its enduring stature, what does director Jessica McFarland feel are the qualities of this narrative that make it such a powerful story?
“I think when you look at The Snow Queen you see all the elements of a great fairy tale. The imagery of the story obviously inspired such iconic stories as The Wizard of Oz and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe - a little girl on a big adventure, meeting new and strange characters who help her to overcome a wicked and powerful female character and save the boy she loves. We also have lovable animals, interesting and quirky humans, and a striking and iconic "baddie." The story has the right mix of scariness to make the stakes seem real, yet we always know good will conquer evil in the end,” states Jessica.
Are there particular elements of the story she is trying to focus upon for Bay City Players upcoming production; and what does Jessica feel are the pivotal moral lessons learned by the two principal characters, Kai and Gerda?
“It's a coming of age story,” she reflects. “Both Gerda and Kai are just at that age where the things you used to like as a child no longer appeal to you, but you aren't quite old enough for more adult things. Kai, especially, goes through this experience and finds that the world looks ugly to him; when the Snow Queen offers to take him away from everything, he jumps at the chance even though he's leaving behind his home and people who love him. He gets so wrapped up in being intellectual and mature that he forgets what really matters.”
“Gerda, on the other hand, never loses faith in Kai. When everyone says he's dead she doesn't believe them, she breaks free of the Enchantress' garden which will keep her a child forever, she believes in him even when she thinks he's married a Princess. She fights through ice and snow with the help of her friends, all because of her love for him. I think The Snow Queen's message is still very relevant today - the power of true love, whether platonic or romantic or somewhere in between, but real, self-sacrificing love, is the strongest power on earth.”
In terms of the cast for this holiday production, Jessica says auditions went very well and 46 actors auditioned for roles, with many talented young people. “The script is very flexible for casting, but I wanted to keep it as tight as possible so we could really give those actors cast a lot to do - we ended up with a cast of 26 playing multiple roles.”
“Our youngest actors are 8, and we go up to adults. I was very fortunate to get a top-notch adult cast to fill the primary roles that I wanted, especially SVSU alum Brianne Dolney who is playing The Snow Queen. She is such an intuitive actor and needs very little direction to get the character exactly where I was envisioning her - alluring but dangerous, with an ethereal edge and lack of understanding of human emotions.”
“One of Gerda's earliest friends is the Wild Crow played by Thad VanTifflin. Thad has been in a few shows at BCP before in smaller roles, and he is an absolute delight both in personality and on stage. His character is similar to the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, being both a reliable and loving adult friend as well as a little bit silly. Thad has to act through a mask so we are working on his physicality and really bringing the Crow character to life.”
“Gerda is played by Ava Mata, and Kai is played by Alex Curry, both are 14. They are both exceptional actors who bring a lot of emotion, humor, and sensitivity to their characters. We really have a standout group of kids and adults for this show; we are currently entering the phase where everyone is getting off book and coming up with little bits that add to their characters, and I'm so excited to see where we go from here.”
As for the biggest challenges encountered bringing this production to the stage, Jessica notes that while she has a lot of experience directing, this is the most technical show she’s encountered. “The script includes a lot of things like "The Robbers Dance" or "it snows," without specifying exactly how these things are supposed to be done. We've created some original choreography with Ally Nacarato that helps to bring some of these scenes to life. We've also added quite a few surprises and "stage magic" - the Board really wanted this show to be an experience for families, and I don't think we'll disappoint in this regard!”
“We are also working with quite a few local artists including Sylvia Coon who will be doing the lobby art through Studio 23 as well as having some coloring pages for kids to work on; Kristen Gray who is creating a full-sized puppet for our Reindeer character, and Erin Frye who is doing all of our background projections to the story really feels like a book come to life. Erica Tatum is doing our costumes and we have an awesome team working on hair and makeup - we're pulling out all the stops with this one, which is very exciting but also a lot of balls to keep in the air.”
“Regarding our puppet, this is the first time BCP is trying something like this,” enthuses Jessica. “The puppet will be in the traditional Bunraku style, where the puppeteers are not hidden. He will be voiced by Eric Kroczaleski who will also be operating the head, and we will have two additional puppeteers helping to bring him to life. He is full size, and entirely handmade by our artist! We are starting work with him next week and we couldn't be more excited to bring this new art form to the stage here.”
As for the strongest attributes about this production that Jessica feels will draw audiences, Jessica references the technical aspects of the production as an obvious draw. “We have both Saturday and Sunday matinees (only Friday evening performances), which we are hoping will encourage families with young children to give the theater a try. We're shooting for something that is appropriate, visually exciting, and magical for children while still having solid acting and storytelling, and that classic scary factor that makes original fairy tales so enchanting for all ages.”
“The story is so beautiful and meaningful, adults should enjoy themselves too. Our goal is really to give everyone a magical experience this holiday season!”
Bay City Players production of ‘The Snow Queen’ will run from Dec. 6-8 & 13-15th. Curtain is at 7:30 PM Fridays and Saturday & Sunday matinees are at 3 PM. Tickets are on sale now for $20 adults; $10 students by visiting the box office or phoning 989-835-5555 or going to baycityplayers.com
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)