by Lenise Willis

Photo by Tamera Izlar

Costumes for Snow Queen

It takes many elements to tell a good story: facial expressions, inflection at just the right time, dramatic pauses. And costumes.

Costumes not only submerge the audience in the story and set the tone of the play, but they also tell the bigger story: the time period and the surrounding setting. The costumes in Triad Stage’s Snow Queen tell these stories and much more.

Helping to make that magic happen is costume and puppet designer Bill Brewer.

“As an Appalachian writer, so often the costume world is dark and realistic, but Bill’s costumes make this an Appalachia intimately connected to both Scotland and ancient myth while becoming a very distinctive place of its own,” said Preston Lane, playwright and Triad Stage artistic director.

For starters, one of the most graceful costumes of the show, the Snow Queen’s icy blue dress””a dream dress for any young aspiring princess””not only reflects the Queen’s cold heart and selfish interests, but it also shows off her dazzling and grandeur appeal””her alluring weapon against lost little boys.

In the play, a young boy, the dear friend of a brave little girl, has gone missing on a cold winter’s night. The myth is that a lonely Snow Queen is responsible for these mysterious disappearances over time, as she lures young boys to be her playmates.

But this time, one daring girl won’t give up her best friend so easily. And so she sets out on an adventure through the Appalachian Mountains in pursuit of the Queen and her friend. Of course, there are a few enchanted obstacles along the way.

“I love the sense of magic in Snow Queen,” Lane added. “I wanted the production to feel like stepping into a glorious children’s book illustrated with stark and beautiful images.”

Although the Snow Queen’s costume is rich and majestic””with a history of its own (it’s being borrowed from UNC School of the Arts)””the other costumes in the play are more closely rooted in reality and reflect the folklore story’s Appalachia setting and Scottish background.

“Some plays are stories; this is a play about a story,” said designer Bill Brewer. “We chose to not make the story set in any specific time period. I wanted it to be a long, long time ago and today, simultaneously. The Appalachian Mountains have a lot of Scottish roots, and somehow wanted to reflect that but not in a terribly specific way. I chose to allow plaid to assume that responsibility, along with a few specifically Scottish items.”

It is for this reason that the Story Weaver, the children and the other non-magical characters in the play don a touch of plaid, whether it’s a Scottish bonnet or skirt with suspenders.

The other mystical creatures are brought to life through both costume and special effects, such as the singing and swaying flowers and the talking river. These characters are also set pieces, and so it took the collaboration of both Brewer and scenic designer Howard C. Jones.

“The story contains a lot of fantastical elements and characters,” Brewer added. “The diversity of visual characterizations is a costume designer’s dream: the heightened realism of the Story Weaver and the children, to the Tribal Gods, through the magical creatures that lead us to the Kingdom of Snow. There is magic around every corner of this journey.”

In addition to the costumes, Brewer also special designed puppets for the show, further bringing out the play’s story-time elements.

“The puppets play major roles in the telling of the story of the Snow Queen,” Brewer said. “Each puppet was designed as a specific individual character and masterfully executed by Eric Hart. However, the puppets themselves are inanimate objects. We rely exclusively on the actor who manipulates the puppet to breathe life into the performance.”

In its second-year production Lane has made a few changes from last year. For starters, he’s recruited a former student, Dani Keil, to take over the play’s direction, giving him more time to focus on new works.

“I have to say at the moment letting someone else direct Snow Queen feels very relaxing,” said Lane, who escaped to Atlantic Beach to do some writing.

Lane has also changed a few lines and is still considering a rewrite of one of the scenes.

“I never like to think a play is finished,” Lane said. “And changes will keep the production fresh.” !


Triad Stage’s Snow Queen runs Nov. 28-Dec. 21 at the Pyrle Theatre, 232 S. Elm St., Greensboro. Tickets are $23-$50 depending on day and seating. For tickets or more information visit or call 272-0160.