Victory Gardens' holiday production, The Snow Queen, will return to the Chicago stage for the third time. The adaption of a Hans Christian Anderson tale features an original score, a live band on-stage who enter into the action of the play, puppets, and the direction by Frank Galati.
Last week Victory Gardens presented a preview to its Chicago audiences. Although only 20 minutes of act two were presented without lights, sound, or costumes, the audience's response was enthusiastic. The charming music, clever lyrics, and universal story reached them immediately and left them wanting more. Galati led the post-rehearsal discussion about their rehearsal process, how the piece was conceived, and the alterations is have gone through in its previous two productions.
The audience really enjoyed seeing what a play looks like one week before the previews when the public usually is first involved in the process. Being able to see the rough concepts and ideas on stage jump-started their imaginations and the began to fill in the blanks of where the production was headed and they were very curious to see where the artists would take the rest of the story. Added to the people who were seeing the production for the first time were patrons who had seen the show multiple times over the past two seasons. These people perhaps had the most enthusiastic response. For them it was like seeing how a magician pulls of a famous illusion.
The discussion continues out into the lobby over free pizza provided by the theatre. Complete strangers approached each other to continue the discussion that had started in the theatre. They complimented each other on the questions and remarks that had been made in the structured discussion and proceeded to add to the ideas being shared.
In an age where the audience is looking for a real experience and interaction with people beyond the four walls of their office, Victory Gardens has hit the challenge on the head. They have developed an excellent production and found a way to involve their audience in the process. If more theatre companies could follow their lead and open their process to their patrons, we would see a renewed interest in theatre.