Saturday, April 7, 2018

Eowyn Ivy's 'The Snow Child' Adapted As Bluegrass Themed Musical, Debuts Spring

Do you remember Eowyn Ivy's fairy tale-based novel The Snow Child?

This beautiful trailer might bring back lovely memories (and if you haven't read it, we recommend you do):
The Snow Child was an astonishing debut that hit the best-seller lists, had book clubs raving and even became a finalist for a Pulitzer. It was inevitable that this beautiful story of survival in a very different American wilderness, would find life in another form, and so it has: as a bluegrass-themed musical.

While bluegrass is a very different sort of soundtrack compared to the "gentle snowfall" one in the trailer above, no doubt it will add a whole new dimension to the story when they're put together.
Eowyn Ivey’s debut novel The Snow Child, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, is reborn as a magical new musical featuring a score that combines Alaskan string-band traditions and contemporary musical theater. The 1920 Alaskan wilderness is a brutal place to try to save a marriage. Reeling from the loss of an unborn child, Mabel and Jack struggle to rebuild their lives even as the fissures between them continue to widen. But everything changes suddenly when they are visited by a wild, mysterious girl who embodies the dark woods that surround their cabin. In this beautiful and violent land, things are rarely as they appear, and what the snow child teaches them will ultimately transform them all. (ArenaStage)
For music folks, who enjoy folk music, the link above includes an interview with the creators of the stage play, particularly with regard to the music and there is also an article from Bluegrass Today which goes into how the music was put together. You can read that one in full HERE.

Artistic Director, Molly Smith, and some of her key creative team for the show, recount how they were inspired and moved by Ivy's novel to bring it to the stage:
“The unimaginable expanse of Alaska was my home for almost half my life, and our cabin in Southeast Alaska remains a retreat for me from the heady politics of Washington, D.C.,” shares Smith. “When I first read the novel, I was struck by Eowyn Ivey’s ability to capture the wildness of Alaska; something I know our audiences will be eager to experience. This is a classic fairytale with a deeply human story—perfect for the stage. Bringing to life this world, from the Alaskan forests to the snow to the enchanted nature of the child, with remarkable collaborators like John, Georgia and Bob, and with a superb company of actors and designers is a particular thrill for me. A Power Play, Snow Child tackles the politics of Alaska at the turn of the century and the relationship of human beings to the environment.” 
“Molly sent me Eowyn Ivey’s novel back in the fall of 2014, and before I even finished reading it I wrote her to say ‘Yes, count me in. I love this book,’” says Stitt (Ed. co-composer & lyrics for Snow Child). “The story was so evocative, so theatrical, and the humanity of the main character, Mabel, was palpable. I’ve been most excited to write such a complex female character, to explore the relationships between what we own and what we only inhabit, and to write American theater music that lives fully and dramatically on the five most traditional bluegrass instruments (fiddle, guitar, mandolin, banjo and upright bass).” 
“The snow child is the magic and mystery at the heart of our story,” recounts Strand (Ed. who wrote the book for the musical). “Like the land she embodies, she transforms everyone around her. To Mabel and Jack, the struggling couple newly arrived in 1920s Alaska as homesteaders, the child is part desire, part redemption, or possibly madness—but surely, she is a reflection of the glorious and unforgiving wilderness that surrounds them all. It has been a privilege and a joy to work with the richly drawn characters from Eowyn Ivey’s novel.” (The Washington Sun)
It's not quite clear how much of the fairy tale - story or feel - will be integrated into the show. Most articles reference the development of the music, but it wouldn't be Eowyn Ivy's story without some of that fairy tale DNA in there either, so we look forward to the reviews.

There is an Artist Statement from Georgia Stitt's personal website, however, that fairy tale folk will find interesting:
Snow Child is based on a centuries-old Slavic folktale: a childless couple builds a small snowman and it comes magically to life, the child they always longed for. But the Snow Child comes with its own dangers and revelations. Taking a folktale and setting it in contemporary reality — the Alaska Territory in the 1920s — allows us to investigate some of the universal themes present here: the cycle of seasons with their echoes of death and rebirth; the struggle to survive in a wilderness that is often violent and unforgiving; the power of hope; the resilience of the human spirit; and the courage it takes to believe in something that cannot be explained logically but is passed down to us in story and song.
The setting of our tale draws us to the American pioneering urge, the homesteader alone against the elements, sometimes compelled — perhaps hopelessly — to try to tame what is better left wild. 
Alaska is what led the Snow Child creative team toward bluegrass, that deeply American music that is rooted in the land. Bluegrass is the musical language we use to get to the truth of this story, although the shared compositional goal between the two co-composers has been to take the best stylistic and harmonic elements of bluegrass music and combine them with the best narrative and storytelling elements of contemporary musical theater. In the resulting sound is the hybrid score of Snow Child. 
At the heart of our narrative is a courageous woman who battles back from despair and an attempt to take her own life. She discovers within her a strength of spirit to rival the tall forests and towering mountains of this magnificent land. It is the mysterious Snow Child who shows her the way.
Previews begin April 13th, with the premiere launching on April 26th in Washington, D.C. at Arena Stage.The production will run through May 20th, 2018.


  1. Thanks for this news.
    I scooped up this novel when it first came out because I'd just spent a month in Alaska, and because--fairy tale! There are remnants of Russian settlements all over the Kenai peninsula (my favorite being Ninilchik), so it seemed perfect to me that Ivy would adapt a Russian tale. I wonder whether any remnant of the Russia-Alaska connection will thread through the musical?

  2. Wow, this musical sounds like it will be enchanting! I hope it does well and tours!