Snow Queen redefined

MET director makes debut with a new adaptation of 19th- century folk tale

MET director makes debut with a new adaptation of 19th- century folk tale

December 12, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

FREDERICK, Md. - For his directorial debut for the Maryland Ensemble Theatre, Reiner Prochaska faced the challenge of adapting "The Snow Queen," for the MET's family-friendly stage, The Fun Company.

Which meant he had to make a children's story more than a century old relevant to a contemporary audience. The version also had to please the kiddies without torturing their parents.

The play, which opens Saturday, Dec. 13, will have to keep the momentum going for a seven-show run.

Did we mention that this was Prochaska's directorial debut?

No pressure.

"I would like to write more for the stage," said Prochaska, who said there was talk about him doing another production for the MET.

Indeed, no pressure.

Prochaska spoke with ease about his adaptation of "The Snow Queen" during an interview with The Herald-Mail, days before the play's opener.


Prochaska, who lives in Frederick, is a German native and former banker who is now an actor, writer and filmmaker. He's been with the MET for four years and was most recently cast in the MET's production of "A Doll's House."

For "Snow Queen," Prochaska said he started by simplifying the complicated folk tale first crafted by 19th-century storyteller Hans Christian Andersen.

Told in vignettes, Andersen's version is about a boy named Kai (Kay, in some translations), who is pricked by a shard of a hobgoblin's evil mirror, and thus cursed - his heart was turned into a lump of ice and he's mean to everyone. To make matters worse, he's abducted by the beautiful Snow Queen, who separates him from his best friend, Gerda.

The plot is put into motion when little Gerda sets out to find and rescue Kai.

Prochaska's updated version has similar plot elements: Gerda still sets out to save her friend. Only in this version, there's video footage and the story's traditional dichotomy of "Good vs. Evil" has been replaced with one Prochaska felt contemporary audiences - both parents and kids, alike - would better appreciate: Man vs. Nature.

The Snow Queen's character also got a makeover.

Compared with other depictions of the Snow Queen, Prochaska's script offers more sympathy, as she represents nature and man's attempt to control it.

"I didn't see the Snow Queen as wicked and evil," Prochaska said. "I saw her as a force of nature."

Traditionally the villain, the Snow Queen has been made over many times in TV and ballet and in previous theater adaptations. But even still, most are only presenting a different strain of "bad girl."

On the more saccharine end of "Snow Queen" adaptations, the Snow Queen could be a stand-in for any of Disney's animated she-villains. In other adaptations, ones closer to the PG-13 end of the spectrum, the Snow Queen comes off like a cougar - slang for an older woman who seeks a much, much younger suitor to seduce.

Actress Carly Lawrence is cast as the Snow Queen.

"She's beautiful and terrifying, just like nature," Prochaska said.

Six actors are cast in the play, which runs between 45 and 50 minutes.

Despite all the updates, Prochaska said, the play's original message still rings true. That no matter the circumstance, "affection and love can go a long way," Prochaska said.

If you go ...

WHAT: "The Snow Queen," presented by The Fun Company, part of the Maryland Ensemble Theatre

WHEN: Opens at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13. Shows continue Saturdays through Jan. 24.

WHERE: Maryland Ensemble Theatre, 31 W. Patrick St., Frederick, Md.

COST: $13.50, plus $1.50 handling fee. Go to to purchase.

CONTACT: Call 301-694-4744 or go to for the Maryland Ensemble Theatre's schedule.

Online video

Go to the Maryland Ensemble Theatre's blog,, to see behind-the-scenes footage of "The Snow Queen," adapted by Reiner Prochaska for the Maryland Ensemble Theatre.

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