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A new Snow White that draws on two traditions

Whistler Secondary School puts on show at Millennium Place



When it comes to Snow White, there is a big difference between Disney and the Brothers Grimm.

Disney has the visuals, the singing dwarfs, housekeeping woodland creatures, 1930s hair and an Evil Queen so terrifying that my childhood self was frightened by her for years. It was even worse than what happened to Bambi's mother.

And the Brother's Grimm version? Altogether more violent, darker and "adult."

Whistler Secondary School (WSS) English and drama teacher Sandra Droulis has kept both versions in mind when writing the play that her students are now preparing to perform.

"Fairytales are very popular right now. There have been a number of movies that have been made that have been adaptations and mixtures of different fairytales," Droulis says.

"So I decided to write it with both in mind. It's kind of a mixture."

The result is a 90-minute show with story, music and dance. Making an appearance in the WSS version are the seven dwarfs and an Evil Queen that is closer to the Disney version, Droulis adds. What is Grimm about it is what the Magic Mirror says.

The resulting story has enough grittiness for the high school kids and enough softened scariness for their younger brothers and sisters.

This is Droulis's fourth year running the theatre-performance program at WSS.

"Having done three previous shows here I know what we are capable of producing, so I made it for what I knew we could do," she says.

There are approximately 30 students from Grades 8 to 12 in the cast and another 20 behind the scenes on costumes, sets and more.

Millennium Place's tech director Dean Feser has been working with four other students setting up the lights, and Droulis gives credit to his training of students offstage.

"He has been taking small groups of kids and teaching them technical theatre," Droulis says.

"The biggest thing he does is teach them how to run the tech booth. We don't have a theatre in the high school, so this is their opportunity to really learn everything."

Snow White is played by Arnica Wight, Prince Charming is played by Stephane Barnett, Matt Paynter is the Huntsman and Shayna Ross-Kelly plays the Evil Queen.

"It is a course, they get credit for theatre performance. It extends way beyond a normal course in terms of the time commitment that the kids and I make to it," she says.

This year, more dance has been added to the story.

"We have some strong dancers taking part. There isn't as much singing this year," Droulis says.

As one of those dancers, 16-year-old Wight is thrilled dance is part of the story and has helped with the choreography.

"I knew about the story but it was cool the way Miss Droulis put it together," the Grade 10 student says.

She says the dancing helps her imagine how telling the story would be if it was made as a movie.

"In Grades 8 and 9 I was involved but it was just the chorus. It's a whole other experience being one of the main roles because you are a lot more involved and you have a leadership role in the whole thing," Wight says.

As a Prince Charming in Grade 10, 15-year-old Barnett is having some wardrobe challenges, not least it taking 15 minutes to put his belt on. He handles it all with a laugh and points out the safety pins.

"This is my third year doing theatre performances with the school and sometimes there are safety pins. But it's been a lot of fun," he says.

"Whistler is a very sports-centred town, an athletic place. It's really nice to be a part of such an artistic part of the school. It's something people don't expect and we can blow people's minds away."

Barnett says he likes the confidence that acting can instill.

"You get lost in a different character, someone who isn't yourself. You get learn about their personality traits and it's just a lot of fun," he says.

"You're up on stage in front of 300 people a night and you're just performing your heart out. We've all been working together for a while, and even the Grade 8s have found themselves among us. We're a big family, we enjoy ourselves."

Snow White takes place at Millennium Place on Thursday, March 12, Friday, March 13 and Saturday, March 14 at 7 p.m.

They are also putting on an afternoon matinee on Friday, March 13, for pupils from Myrtle Philip and Spring Creek Community Schools.

Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at the Millennium Place box office or at www.artswhistler.com.