York playwright premieres fresh take on 'The Snow Queen'

Brock Gilson, 10, rehearses as "Kay" with Brynn Walker, 13, as "The Snow Queen" for local playwright Paige Hoke's adaptation of a classic story by Hans Christian Andersen. (Photo: D Scott Miller)

Theatre Arts for Everyone presents "The Snow Queen" at Logos Academy, in York City,  7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 8-9 and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 9-10.

York County playwright Paige Hoke will next week premiere a new adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen."

"She's always looking for things to adapt," said Diane Crews, who is directing the show, performed by York City-based Theatre Arts for Everyone, which opens March 8.

Hoke said she enjoys taking a familiar story and giving it a new spin because audiences are more willing to take a chance on something familiar.

Two such works by Hoke have been produced through local theater DreamWrights Center for Community Arts — "The Secret Garden" and "Peter Pan and Mary," a prequel to the famous story about the boy who never grew up.

The Snow Queen: Hoke's adaptation of "The Snow Queen" stemmed from her grandmother, who was of Norwegian descent and often encouraged her to read, Crews said.

The story goes back to the Andersen tale from 1844, in which a girl goes searching for her friend, a neighbor boy who was taken by the snow queen. 

"I think that it’s a really great story about two friends," Hoke said, adding that she also admired the story's strong female lead.

Hoke's "Snow Queen" more closely follows themes in another recent adaptation, Disney's "Frozen," in which love has power over negativity, Crews said.

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Children's stories used to be about behavioral warnings for the child, she said, but there's not as much need for that now as there is for the idea that if you work together, wonderful things can happen.

While in the original story, the snow queen remains a villain, she has redemption in Hoke's story.

"I would not have directed it if it had a negative ending," Crews said.

Other changes include the addition of snowflakes as narrators over some of the action, and music by Jacquie Sutton — her last compositions before she died at age 90.

The pianist had an incredible talent for improvisation, often adding her own twist to live performances, Crews said.

"I could say to Jacquie, 'The snowflakes are marching, can you change it into a march?' and she would do it," she said.

Hoke said she'd worked with Sutton since childhood, and "she was definitely one of the big influencers of my life."

Young playwright: Hoke, 30, director of the theater program at York Country Day School, is currently directing four local theater shows at once and sits on TAFE's board of directors.

"She can do it all," Crews said. "She’s a theater person extraordinaire."

Acting was her primary focus before she started directing and teaching, but Hoke said she's always been writing — beginning as early as elementary school, writing plays to perform with her friends.

After graduating from Arcadia University, north of Philadelphia, she came back to York County, where she fell in love with community theater. 

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Theatre Arts for Everyone: Crews said she and Hoke share the same goal of large cast scripts with many parts for children.

"The Snow Queen" has 31 cast members ranging from age 7 to 72.

The goal of TAFE is to let young people experience theater, Crews said, adding that it's not usually a part of the curriculum before high school and children are not using their imaginations as much anymore with the prevalence of screens.

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The theater group also focuses on working with the special needs population and seniors, who are "completely underserved theatrically."

TAFE operates out of the St. Mark's Lutheran church basement but is looking for its own performance space that is accessible and affordable, Crews said.

Looking ahead to the big night, Hoke shared her anticipation.

"To see the characters that you created, and the world you created, step off the page in front of you, it’s really exciting," she said. 

"The Snow Queen" will be presented at Logos Academy, 250 W. King St., at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 8-9, and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 9-10. Tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite.