Snow Queen marks Xavier Players venture into children's theater

Production of Hans Christian Anderson's classic tale, which runs this weekend, includes use of a variety of puppets | December 5, 2007

European director and theater artist, Irina Niculescu brings her magic to the Xavier Players production of Hans Christian Anderson's classic tale, "Snow Queen," Dec. 6-9 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 8 at 1:30 the Gallagher Student Center Theater. There is also a school performance on Thursday, Dec. 6, at 10:00 a.m. Tickets are $5 for students, faculty and staff and $15 for all others. Tickets are available by calling the Players box office at 513 745-3939.

The story, which is a free adaptation written by Jonathan Graham, focuses on the relationship between two young friends, Kai and Gerda, and holds a valuable lesson about holding strong to what you believe in. This is the first time the Xavier Players have ventured into children’s theater.

“Theater for young audiences was my undergraduate minor and a passion of mine for many years,” says Director for Performing Arts Cathy Springfield. “Performing and writing for young audiences is so rewarding. I’m delighted to finally bring this theater experience to the Xavier community and become a new voice for children in the Cincinnati community.”

This is also the first time the Players have worked with Niculescu.

“The story of the "Snow Queen" is adventurous, romantic, heroic and humorous at times," says Niculescu. "Graham’s theater adaptation of Andersen contains the confrontation between reality and illusion. It provoked me to imagine the show in an abstract set composed of screens, where everything is suggestion, and to bring several forms of puppetry, new to Xavier Players.”

“Some puppets are hand-held masks. Some are the actor’s head with a puppet body, or what we are calling humanettes,” she explains. “There is also large shadow puppetry. This big imagery gives a different dimension to the fantastic of the story.”

Niculescu is a theater director with a broad background in project management and theater education. She has directed shows and taught theater in Romania, Norway, Switzerland, Spain, Poland, Belgium, France, Canada and the United States. She has created innovative theater for young audiences combining acting, puppetry, dance and live music. In 2005 she moved back to the United States and now resides, together with her family, in Cincinnati.

Niculescu received her MFA from the Academy of Theater, Film and Music, at Charles University in Prague, specialty puppet, mask and visual theater. She began her professional career at Tandarica Theater in Bucharest, Romania, where she created numerous shows. Niculescu taught theater directing and puppet theater at the Academy of Theatre and Cinema in Bucharest, The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Connecticut, The Actors Theatre Institute in Seville, L’Ecole Superieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette in Charleville-Mezieres, Riksteatret in Oslo and in Geneva.

Back in the United States she has offered master classes at the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University.

“This is my first experience with college theater,” says Niculescu. “I appreciate and enjoy the dialogue with my young actors and the entire ensemble and crew, which engaged with great courage and spirit in the creative process.”