The temperatures in Huntsville, Alabama are just now starting to creep down to the 70’s, but the folks at Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater have been knee deep in the winter ice of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.
The tale that loosely inspired Disney’s 2013 mega hit, Frozen is currently being performed at the Von Braun Center as the opener of Fantasy Playhouse’s Main Stage Season and is rolling along in FPCT’s Academy, their theatre education department in the form of a theme-based Snow Queen class. As one of the teaching artists for the class, I’ve been inundated with all things Snow Queen for months. When the main stage show rolled around, I looked forward to attending to support my friends and colleagues, but I didn’t necessarily expect to gain any new insights into material I had been teaching for months. Was it possible for this production to reveal something new to me?
The overwhelming answer to this was yes. As I sat in the theater listening to children comment on the confusing nature of blackouts (“Wait, is the show over?”), I started thinking about the character Gerda’s complete and unwavering commitment to her quest.
At it’s core, The Snow Queen is a story about love conquering fear. Every character loves someone or something, be it power, family (the one we’re born with and the one we create), or the freedom to make our own choices. Fear fights to destroy the characters. The threat of danger and death in this play are real. The ice ghosts of children the Snow Queen’s winter has taken away literally verbalize it before the penultimate scene. Despite this, Gerda isn’t deterred which leads me to ask, what happens when we allow love to be stronger than our fear?
As it turns out, a lot.
Gerda’s quest begins after her best friend Kay is corrupted by evil magic and stolen by the Snow Queen, who is determined to sink the world into an eternal winter. As Gerda travels to find Kay, she meets a series of eclectic characters. The ones that take the time to listen to her story are so drawn in by her single mindedness and love for her friend that they agree to help her on her journey.
Now, lets momentarily allow ourselves to step out of the theatre. How much do we allow love to guide us on our journeys? How much does fear influence our decisions?
“We must not be frightened!
Terror be gone, coldness be done.
Our hearts beat with the heat of a blood red sun.”
- Bhima the Magician (Act I, Scene I)
In our current climate of almost near-constant school violence and bullying, this message of love and accepting someone who is labeled as “the other” is essential for young audiences to hear.
Kay is an orphan. He doesn’t technically belong to Gerda and Grandmother’s family unit. Yet none of these supposed limitations stops Gerda from viewing Kay as a part of her family. When we allow ourselves to love and encourage others, that energy is catching. Shouldn’t that be the message we want our young people hearing? Fear is easy, but it’s limiting and paralyzing. Love takes courage and vulnerability, but when we allow it to guide us, it emanates from us and envelopes those around us.
This is why The Snow Queen is important. Fantasy’s production sparkles with fabulous costumes and the set is one of the most ambitious projects the crew has constructed in recent productions, but its heart shines through the most. This is the message I want my students to hear and the one I sincerely hope parents are equally enthusiastic to impart to their children.
The Snow Queen by Stuart Paterson, based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, will be performed at the Von Braun Center Playhouse in Huntsville, Alabama October 16-18. Performance times and ticket information are available at fantasyplayhouse.com.