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Snow Queen at Lilly Theater

Long Live The Snow Queen

Written by Jonathan Graham, whose plays for young audiences have been staged by such theatres as Childsplay, Metro Theatre Company, and Pollyanna Theatre. He lives in Richmond, Indiana with his family.

Hans Christian Andersen published The Snow Queen in 1844, and it is one of the most popular of the more than 3000 stories he published in his lifetime. I wrote this adaptation 150 years later, one of the 30-some plays I’ve had produced. So why did I adapt this particular story, and why am I still talking about it years later? 

Origin story

Back in 1994, when I was in graduate school, I wasn’t familiar with this story. When I was assigned to write an adaptation, my wife Jennie (who has worked as a storyteller and librarian) recommended it to me. I immediately appreciated its theatrical possibilities, and I was moved by the way 12-year-old Gerda risks everything to save her friend. As you may know, The Snow Queen, has inspired numerous adaptations. There’s Frozen, for one, but also operas, plays, ballets and other films. C.S. Lewis may have had the story in mind when he wrote . As for my play, it was first staged at the Playwright’s Workshop at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1995, and has been produced 20 times since.

A different spin

The thing that makes my version of the story different from other adaptations is the relationship between Nick, the troll and Nell, and elf. These are two friends and co-workers who first attempt to foil Gerda’s plans, but eventually choose to put themselves at risk in order to help the girl rescue her friend, Kai. In Andersen’s original story, there are many characters and settings that Gerda encounters along the way, probably too many to include in a play. I streamlined to plot, but I also decided to have Nick and Nell disguise themselves in various ways. I loved the theatrical potential of this choice, but I also wanted to have two strong characters who appear throughout the play who have to decide whether or not to help Gerda.

In this story about friendship, freedom, responsibility and the transformative power of love, I think that the relationship between Nick and Nell provides an important counterpoint to the friendship between Kai and Gerda. Nick and Nell remind us that often in life, we have to choose whether to make someone else’s life better or worse.

A homecoming 

This play has been performed at theatres from New Jersey to New Mexico and from Ontario to Georgia, but this is the first time it’s been staged in my adopted home state of Indiana. What a nice surprise that it has found its way to the Lilly Theater stage after all these years. I think the play’s long life is a testament to the enduring themes of Andersen’s story and ability of simple theatrical magic to continue to engage new audiences.

I hope you enjoy it!

You can watch The Snow Queen in Lilly Theater on select days until December 30. Tickets are free with museum admission. Day-of tickets are available at the Lower Level Ticket Booth.

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Categories: Theater
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