The Snow Queen at Theatre Institute at Sage
TROY, N.Y. >> Before there was “Frozen” there was “The Snow Queen.” The Hans Christian Anderson story written in 1844 deals with two friends who live next door to each other. When the young man, Kai, is tempted by the Snow Queen to enter her icekingdom, he becomes victimized by the evil sorceress. He is in danger of being enslaved forever.
Kai’s good friend Gerda, sets out into the frozen world of the Snow Queen to rescue her friend. The brave girl conquers the dangerous and arduous trip and through love, kindness and self- awareness brings her friend back into the world where good prevails.
Making the experience more accessible is that the show’s creators, Kristen Brandt, and Rick Lombardo, have added a contemporary musical score.
Does this sound familiar? Well, for a lot less money than you would spend to see “Frozen” on Broadway, “The Snow Queen” is being offered locally through December 13 (with a much more modest budget). It’s produced by the Theatre Institute at Sage at the Russell Sage campus in Troy. The performances are this weekend and morning shows Tuesday through Thursday.
Playing Kai in the TiS production is Charlie Barnett IV, who sees the work as ideal for families. “It’s about friendship and brav- ery. It’s just what we need in our current world,” he says.
As for his character Kai, Barnett describes him as “very curious and extremely adventurous.” He adds, “Those qualities are both positive and negative. It’s what gets him in trouble and what helps him to be saved.”
Barnett is thrilled to have a lead role in a play that he loves, but it is a bittersweet experience for him. Barnett will graduate from Sage in a few weeks and “The Snow Queen” is his last production as a student performer. “It’s an odd feeling,” he says. “I go from being in an environment that has guided my creativity for four years, to going out and showing the world what I am capable of doing.”
He is confident about the future and believes his Sage training has made him a more creative individual and built his resume. “I thank God every day that I chose to come to a small school like Sage rather than one of the Big Box theater schools. In some schools, you don’t get to participate in a production for the first two years. At Sage, I worked on the first show for which I auditioned. I firmly believe you learn by doing.”
After a pause, he adds with a faint laugh, “I don’t think I’ve stopped since. The Sage theatre program is not for the faint of heart.” He rattles off about a dozen shows he’s appeared in, including a self-produced oneman show, “Santaland Diaries,” in which he per- formed. “What’s wonderful about this place is if you have a creative idea, you get total support from the faculty and your fellow actors to make it happen.”
He refuses to judge himself as an actor. Indeed, he dismisses the term, preferring to think of himself as a “theater artist.” He explains that another strength of being at Sage is you participate in every aspect of a production. For every show Barnett has acted in, there are more in which he worked backstage.
Building sets, working on lighting or designing and sewing costumes. “The philosophy here is if you see something that needs to be done, if someone needs help – you jump in and get it done.”
Barnett has good reason to be confident that his skills will find him work in the world of professional theater. For the past three summers, he’s worked in the costume department of the prestigious Williamstown Theatre Festival in the Berkshires. He started as a costume department intern in 2016 and described the experience with pride, “I was the only intern invited back for a staff position the following year.” That too must have been an impressive time as this summer he was given the position of Wardrobe Supervisor.
He recognizes the value of the Broadway connections he made at Williamstown, but he says the real value of the experience is how he came to realize his time at Sage prepared him for the world of professional theater. “It was an intense experience. We put on seven huge, complicated shows in three months. A lot of people caved under the pressure. I didn’t. It taught me what I was made of, and I owe a lot of that to my time at Russell Sage.”
“The Snow Queen” at Russell Sage College, Troy. Performances 7:30 Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. 10:30 a.m. December 11, 10 a.m. 12-13. Tickets $12$15. 518-244-2248, sage. edu/theatre.
Charlie Barnett performs in The Snow Queen at the Theatre Institute at Sage.