Currently onstage at the Arden Theatre Company is Snow White. This show is part of the Arden’s Children Theatre productions. The Arden does a wonderful job with these shows, they are interactive and people of all ages will find something to enjoy in the shows. This production of Snow White is a little different than what you might expect, two actors play all the roles in the story.
We had the chance to speak with Nastassja Whitman who plays Snow White in the Arden’s production. She spoke with us about the uniqueness of the production and the energy it takes for two actors to portray all the characters in the tale. In addition, she spoke about what audiences can expect as well as the importance of reinventing a traditional fairy tale in today’s society.
Kelli Curtin: Could you tell me a little about Snow White at the Arden Theatre Company?
Nastassja Whitman: This production of Snow White is the traditional fairy tale, but with a twist. Usually there is a larger cast with the characters of Snow White, the seven dwarfs, the step mother, etc. We do this show with three people, two are onstage with movement and one is playing the music. We make changes to the show, so it is more accessible to today’s audience and it is a little shorter. For example, one of the changes that people are not expecting is that the character, Snow White, is wearing a coal miner’s outfit and does not appear in the traditional dress people expect her to wear. Also, Snow White is being played by a black actress.
Kelli: What can audiences expect when coming to see the show?
Nastassja: Audiences can expect to laugh. There is one person who plays all the dwarfs and there is a lot of comedy to see him transform into the different characters. The show also has an element of teaching for the audience. It illustrates Snow White as a kind person who really just wants to help others. Her backstory is that she was given the world by her father who was wealthy, but all that is taken away from her. However, the kindness still remains. Through the story she wants to help the old woman who comes to her door, but she demonstrates how she wants to be kind to the woman, as well as be safe. I also think audiences will be shocked at how this story is told differently. It is told in a way that keeps the audience immersed in the story. In addition, the role playing aspect is different because the actor who plays the dwarfs also plays the stepmother, so there are some gender boundaries being broken.
Kelli: Could you talk to me a little about what it is like to do a play with three people onstage?
Nastassja: There are both benefits and challenges to this. One of the challenges is that we have to transform into other characters in a short amount of time. There is a lot of energy involved. We are always onstage and there is no break throughout the show. One of the things I really like about having a small cast is that there is a closeness with us. We look out for each other and take care of one another. It is easier to communicate when there is just three of us and it feels like family.
Kelli: Why do you think it is important in today’s society to reinvent the telling of a popular fairy tale like Snow White?
Nastassja: The classic fairy tale was outdated and not useful anymore. Society changes every day and people become bored with the classic Snow White story. How we interact with each other and how things are presented have changed and we reflect that in the Arden’s production. One of the things that happens in this show is a man wears a skirt at one point and a woman plays a prince. The children pick up on these changes and ask questions, and it makes me very aware of the information we are presenting to kids.
Retelling a classic fairy tale such as Snow White is a chance to look at the classic story and be able to tell it in a way that reflects where we are as a society. I have the opportunity to play Snow White who is traditionally portrayed by a white woman. However, I am a black woman and I have the opportunity to play this role. It reflects that we are revealing that instead of judging someone because of the color of a person’s skin we should be able to look at a person’s heart to see that person’s charm and kindness.
Kelli: How did you become interested in performing?
Nastassja: I have always enjoyed performing. When I was young I wanted to be on the children’s television show, Barney, but I do not think I really understood what I was getting into wanting to perform. When I was much older I took the initiative to wanting to act professionally. Being an actor can be terrifying and being rejected is scary. There are a lot of great things in this profession, but there are some terrifying elements to it as well. Taking the leap and deciding to do this professionally was a difficult decision.
Kelli: When performing in a show geared towards children, what gives you the most fulfillment?
Nastassja: I love hearing the responses from the audience. We get to tell the story on the stage, but hearing the reaction from the kids every day is fulfilling. Also, after the show we go into the lobby and the kids in the audience tell us their thoughts on the show. It is so great to hear the honesty from the kids about what they thought about the show. Kids are so honest, they tell us exactly what they think. It is great to have that interaction with the audience after the show.
Kelli: Why, in your opinion, is live theatre important?
Nastassja: When you go to the movie it is the same thing over and over, and reactions to the movies are usually similar. In seeing a piece of live theatre audiences get to see an actor be vulnerable onstage, their performance reflects something personal for them. The audience is part of a play or musical, their reactions change how actors respond as well as how other members of the audience respond. Live theatre can change someone’s live. It is never the same twice, each time we do a show it is a completely unique experience.
Nastassja Whitman can be seen in the Arden Theatre’s production of Snow White through June 10, 2018. For more information and tickets visit their website at www.ardentheatre.org or call the box office at 215-922-1122.
Photos Courtesy of Arden Theatre Company
Kelli Curtin is founding editor and writer for Theatre Sensation. She has maintained a love of the performing arts since a very early age and she is excited to share her passion about theatre and the Arts with her readers. Kelli can be found on Twitter, Facebook and on Instagram.