The wintertime is loved by some and dreaded by others, but what this interesting season always brings is time to reflect and a chance to connect with others, and those themes are abundantly explored in the Arden Theatre Company’s latest production, “The Snow Queen.” If the classic story of a protagonist traveling through the seasons to rescue her friend from the cold clutches of the icy queen sounds familiar, you may have heard the fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen or seen the popular Disney remake “Frozen” – but the story taking place on stage at the Arden is more mystical than ever. Katherine Fried, the Snow Queen herself, sat down with Metro to discuss the show, the magical themes the story encompasses and the hauntingly beautiful music that helps set the snowy scene.
The Snow Queen herself gives Metro the scoop on the Arden’s latest production
What motivated you to want to play the Snow Queen? What do you like about her?
I was enticed by the strength of her character. I think that I’m always drawn into playing more vicious and powerful people, and this was a wonderful opportunity to do that. I was also told that there was going to be a good amount of music in the show and that was a draw for me as well. She’s an interesting and unique character because you’re sort of playing a season and the characteristics of a season, but at the same time, you get to create a back story for why she is the way she is.
How would you describe the story?
Essentially it is about the deep love in connection with one another and about how conversation surrounding the four seasons can really highlight the beauty of human connection. With wintertime, I think we’re dealing with a lot of hardening and grief, then vulnerability gets to ripen and progress through springtime, then become open and bold in summer, and then we circle back to loss in the fall. But basically, what we’re seeing on stage is the protagonist, Gerta, searching for her friend who has been taken away from her by winter, and we watch her progress through all of the different seasons until she makes it to the wintertime to find him and they are able to reconnect through her journey. But both of them have lost parents and are sitting with grief in their own ways, the beautiful challenges and lessons of time under these external conditions allow them to find the strength in their hearts to come back to one another. We get to do that through a mystical world and a mystical telling, and there’s a lot of whimsy involved. But I think the heart of the story has a lot to do with reaching one another through the strength of vulnerability. We also get to talk about themes of pride, vanity, insecurity and where those faults stem from, and that’s usually a place of pain and needing to protect yourself. So we go through this journey in order to better understand how we cannot only be free with one another, but also how we can better protect each other.
Does the music in the show follow along the same mystical and magical lines of the storyline?
I do think the music does. The script gives us a nice skeleton that we get to fill in with muscle and bone and blood – one of the ways that we do that is by taking some sparse poetic lines and musicalizing them. Our music director has given us some themes that we have been able to run rampant with, which are pretty based in Celtic musicianship and older Northern music. We have a cellist, violinist, accordion, symbol and a couple of guitar players, and you’re also going to hear a lot of interesting vocal decor throughout the show. It has a bit of a haunting tone but there is also musical humor. I would say the music to me sounds like it’s coming from a far off origin. If you look at different musical histories, there are a lot of similar roots that come back to the Middle East, and if you look at Middle East music in comparison to Nordic music, you’ll have a lot of the same flavors in both musical themes. So it’s a very rooted sound.
Any particular song or scene from the show that you’re most excited for people to see?
There are going to be some really interesting design elements at play. The ending is going to be really brilliant – there’s sort of a showdown between the Snow Queen and Gerta the protagonist – it’s got this element of cold meets the heat, and heart meets the hurt quality. But my favorite season to watch right now is Summer. I think it’s jubilant and comical and just very other-worldly in an exciting way.
Why do you think this show is ideal this time of year?
I think that this time of year is a really nice time to sit and reflect on the importance and beauty of community. This show has a central theme of that focus and that value and it’s a good time of year for that focus because the weather extremes bring the gift of bringing people together. You’re spending time with the arts and indoors and I tend to find people to be more neighborly during this time as well. I just think this show explores the value of relationships and deep care for one another.
Catch “The Snow Queen” onstage at the Arden Theatre Company until Jan. 26