BWW Interview: Shannon Hurst of THE SNOW QUEEN at Little Door Theatre Says It's A Magical, Icy Spectacle!
The Little Door Theatre is tackling a new endeavor with their first full-length Theatre for Young Audiences production of The Snow Queen that runs February 22nd through March 3rd at the theatre in Warren. Based on the beloved Hans Christian Andersen tale, kids of all ages will be delighted by The Snow Queen, a heartwarming story of friendship, love, and coming age. The audience joins Gerda as she sets out to save her best friend, Kai, from the icy hand of the Snow Queen. Along the way, Gerda encounters robbers, witches, royalty and a talking reindeer as her adventures take her closer to saving her friend. BroadwayWorld Detroit had a chance to speak with Shannon Hurst, The Snow Queen's director and Little Door Theatre's owner and artistic director, about the show, what it takes to put on a youth theatre play, and what type of magic audiences can expect in The Snow Queen. Check out what she has to say below!
Broadway Detroit: Can you give our readers a brief background of yourself and then your theatre career as an introduction?
Shannon Hurst: I am the owner and artistic director of Little Door Theatre and the director for The Snow Queen. I graduated from Wayne State University from their Bachelor of Fine Arts acting program in 2015 and studied at the Moscow Art Theatre School as a part of their study abroad program in the summer of 2014. It had always been a dream of mine to open a theatre of my own one day - I just was very fortunate to have the opportunity at the young age of 22! I have been learning the ropes and helping to build Little Door Theatre ever since. I am an actor, designer, choreographer, and director for Little Door Theatre, but outside of our company, I am primarily an actor.
BWW Detroit: How would you describe The Snow Queen in your own words?
Shannon Hurst: When I first saw The Snow Queen, I was completely blown away by the level of detail and movement that gave way to such a beautifully artistic show. I, personally, am a movement-based theatre director, and love to see organic and dance choreography used to heighten the theatrical experience and create a whole new world for the audience. The Snow Queen at Little Door Theatre will hopefully do much of the same thing. I hope to captivate our audiences by our creative use of movement, puppetry, creative costuming, and, most importantly, strong acting choices to bring to life this fantastical world.
BWW Detroit: What was your introduction to The Snow Queen?
Shannon Hurst: I was a huge fan of the children story as a child, and, of course, everyone has seen Disney's Frozen, an avid favorite of mine, which is based off of Han Christian Andersen's original story. My favorite adaptation was the production Wayne State University performed while I was studying there. I fell back in love with the story and knew one day I had to do my very own production of the show with our own Little Door Theatre spin on it!
BWW Detroit: What made you want to direct show?
Shannon Hurst: As I said before, I love any opportunity to incorporate movement into my directed pieces and shows. Theatre for Young Audiences is a great opportunity to do just that! Since the script was relatively simple in stage directions, much like a Shakespeare show, we were able to take liberties with movement and dance choreography to help the scenes have a new life! It almost has a very Alice in Wonderland feel to it, another one of my favorites, and I could visualize the costumes, lights, choreography, and show long before I ever knew I was going to get to direct it! I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to direct this show as it is in my top three bucket list shows along with Big Love, which I directed last season.
BWW Detroit: What made Little Door Theatre decide to do a full-length Theatre for Young Audiences show?
Shannon Hurst: I am not much into directing children's shows, but Theatre for Young Audiences productions, with adults and teens in the starring roles, have always had a special place in my heart. I have been interested in doing shows that are more family friendly, if I am passionate about the project, and The Snow Queen definitely fit the bill! We will still have our Theatre for Young Audiences series this summer of shorter one act shows as well, but my hope is that each season we can do at least one Theatre for Young Audiences full-length show from here on out!
BWW Detroit: Is it a show for all ages of young audiences or do you recommend a certain age level?
Shannon Hurst: This is definitely a show for all ages - from the youngest pre-school age children to grown adults and grandparents! The show runs just over an hour without an intermission. We will not be selling concessions to avoid messy situations and kids moving around the theatre, but bottle water will be sold beforehand. This script made me sob like a baby with how beautiful it is, while also being absolutely hilarious and relatable to all walks of life. There are also opportunities for children to interact with the cast before, during, and after the show, and plenty of beautiful technical elements such as costume, lights, sound, and the set to keep older audience members attention as well.
BWW Detroit: What would you say makes your version of The Snow Queen stand out from other production since it is such a well-known book and piece of theatre?
Shannon Hurst: This is not going to be your average play - our production will incorporate large moveable props, life-size puppets, over-the-top dances, and one of the best adaptations of The Snow Queen, that audiences could even have imagined! Little Door Theatre's The Snow Queen will be unlike any Theatre for Young Audiences productions I've seen or been a part of and I am excited for audiences to see how spectacular this show is!
BWW Detroit: Contrary to the above question, what would you say to someone with no prior knowledge of The Snow Queen to get them to see the production?
Shannon Hurst: What I have said to those who didn't know much about The Snow Queen is that it is entertaining for all ages. Children will be wowed by the stunning visual effects we were able to create as an ensemble as well as the up-close-and-personal interaction with the characters in the show. Adults will love the heart-warming nature of the story and will be laughing their hearts out at the humor brought to life by our spectacular cast. The story of The Snow Queen is one of love and bravery - something audiences of all ages can relate to and hold in their hearts even after they leave the theatre! Our version of The Snow Queen is one that hopefully you'll never forget.
BWW Detroit: Did you do any special research in preparing to direct The Snow Queen?
Shannon Hurst: I did a ton of research on shadow puppets and other kinds of puppetry to create many of the mechanical props in the show. I wanted to bring the world of the play to life in the same magical way that I imagined it and it was very important for me to make the more mystical creatures a reality through the creation and movement of these puppets. I also have a decent background in dance that helped me immensely when choreographing the dance numbers in this show. I wanted to make sure that the different places Gerda travels are unique and very different from one another, so making sure the dance styles were unique and different was essential.
BWW Detroit: Did you have to approach this show differently than previous endeavors since it was a Theatre for Young Audiences show?
Shannon Hurst: I definitely did have to approach the show differently for this production versus, say, one of our Shakespeare shows. When creating shows for young audiences it is very important to keep them engaged in an active way throughout the whole show. The Snow Queen easily does this through the audience interaction with the characters and the spectacle of the props, set, and costumes we have created for the show. This is, by far, the largest production Little Door Theatre has ever taken on!
BWW Detroit: Do you have a favorite moment in the show?
Shannon Hurst: My favorite moment is a tie. My heart loves the ending to the show, which I'll let audiences come see and not spoil here! It is so heart-warming and caught me by surprise. I sobbed when I first read it, and cried again at the first read-through - it's so beautiful! This moment is tied with my love for the dances we have created as an ensemble. They're both so funny and lively that I cannot help but love every second of them! I cannot wait to see what they look like with our final lights, set, and costumes - they're sure to have audiences loving them too.
BWW Detroit: What makes Little Door Theatre's interpretation of The Snow Queen unique?
Shannon Hurst: The Snow Queen is unique from other productions we've done at Little Door Theatre simply based on the scale of everything we've accomplished. From the costumes, to the set, to the fully choreographed dance numbers, we have never done a show quite this over-the-top and with such an undertaking in the technical element's category. My team of designers have worked tirelessly to create this beautiful world my actors get to interact with and be a part of. I am so thankful for all of their hard work and dedication. It is not easy to put on an over the top show like this in our tiny black box/studio space, but they've made my "Snow Queen dreams" come true!
BWW Detroit: Why should people come see Little Door's production of The Snow Queen?
Shannon Hurst: We live in a world where technology and screens have taken over and people forget the magic that is live theatre. Our production of The Snow Queen removes the wall that has been created by these technological devices and delves audiences right into the icy world of the play. They get to live through each moment with Gerda and Kai as they experience it live and there is something so magical about feeling like you're a part of the spectacle of a play like The Snow Queen. It will make you laugh, cry, and get all the warm fuzzy feelings that come with falling in love and doing whatever it takes to save the person you care about most. Audiences will not be disappointed by this show - my cast, crew, and I have put our whole hearts into building this beautiful piece of art, and I know that it will be one of the most memorable shows we have created thus far at Little Door Theatre!
The Snow Queen runs February 22nd-March 3rd with showtimes Friday at 7pm and Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm at Little Door Theatre in Warren. Tickets are $10 and can be reserved via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or purchased online at https://ldtsnowqueen.brownpapertickets.com. For more information, visit www.littledoortheatre.com.