The Snow Queen at The­atre In­sti­tute at Sage

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Bob Goepfert

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 brav­ery. 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 per­formed. “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.

PHOTO PRO­VIDED

Char­lie Barnett per­forms in The Snow Queen at the The­atre In­sti­tute at Sage.

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