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Nov. 16, 2005
Contact: Charla Jenkins, University Theatre, (785) 864-2684.

KU's Theatre for Young People to stage new adaptation of 'The Snow Queen'

LAWRENCE -- The University of Kansas Theatre for Young People is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Hans Christian Andersen with a new adaptation of the Dane's classic story "The Snow Queen" Dec. 2-8 in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre in Murphy Hall.

Public performances are at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4. Performances for children in the fourth through sixth grades of Lawrence and Douglas County schools are at 1 p.m. Dec. 2, 5, 6, 7 and 8.

The production has been adapted and is directed by Romas Viksraitis, a guest artist from Vilnius, Lithuania. Scenic design is by Anna Wieczorek, Lawrence graduate student, and lighting design is by Tim Boeshaar, Shawnee Mission senior. Costume designer is Kelly Vogel, Lawrence graduate student, and sound designer is Alex Weston, University Theatre stage manager. John Staniunas, associate professor of theatre and film and University Theatre artistic director, is choreographing the production.

Told through seven stories, "The Snow Queen" is a tale about devoted friendship and the power of love over evil. It follows a courageous girl as she searches for her friend who has been whisked away by the evil Snow Queen. The girl's adventurous journey to the queen's icy palace takes her through unusual landscapes where she encounters fantastical and magical characters before saving her friend through the power of love.

Viksraitis first adapted the tale for a recent broadcast on Lithuanian radio. The actors were repertory members of his own theater company, Elfu Teatras (Theatre for Little Ones -- Elves), which specializes in theater for young audiences. The KU version will be different from the radio play, although the director is using much of the music and sound effects from that project.

" The story on stage moves much faster, with more of the sound effects coming from the actors," he said. "The music will be the same and has been written or adapted specifically for the radio play and for the play that I will stage here at KU."

Viksraitis' adaptation uses the Author and Troll as central storytellers who draw in the other actors to become characters in the stories.

" They are almost like a comedy team like Martin and Lewis or Abbott and Costello," Viksraitis said. "One is smart, the other funny but slow. The Troll is a comedic device character to comment on the story, and the Author 'checks in' with the audience throughout the play to see 'if they know more that they knew before.' I think the children will enjoy this device in storytelling; they will be part of the story and feel free to be involved in the action of the play from the beginning."

Viksraitis, born in Klaipeda, Lithuania, studied drama at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre in Vilnius and at the State Institute of Theatre Studies in Moscow, where he received a master of arts degree with honors in producing and directing theatre productions and a diploma in acting. While in Moscow, he also completed a one-year course in directing TV and radio drama productions and a nine-month traineeship in the development of professional skills. He also studied for one year at the International Theatre institute in Liege, Belgium.

He began his professional career in 1974 as a production assistant at the Jaunimo Theatre in Vilnius and then served as an assistant director at the Malij Theatre in Moscow. From 1978 to 1983 he was director of the Puppet Theatre in Vilnius, the State Drama Theatre in Kaunas and the State Drama Theatre in Klaipeda. In 1989, he founded and began directing the Keistuoliu Teatras in Vilnius and, in 1993, he became head of the children and youth club Antakalnis in Vilnius. In 1998, he founded and became director, pedagogue and head of Elfu Teatras in Vilnius.

Viksraitis has directed several works for young people including "Blue Bird" by M. Maeterlinck, "The Dog in the Sky," an original play by E. Ignatavicius; "An Ordinary Miracle" by E. Shwarc, "The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams, "The Old Man and the Sea," based on Ernest Hemingway's novel; "Raggedy Ann Stories," "The Nutcracker and the King of Mice" and "A Christmas Carol." His directing credits also include such plays for adults as "Every Clever Man Has Enough of Stupidity," "Equus," "Two Soffi" and "A Streetcar Named Desire." Viksraitis has directed three productions aired on Lithuanian National Radio: "Charlotte" by T. White in 2002, "Dentist Ametistas" by L. S. Cerniauskaite in 2003 and "The Snow Queen" in 2005.

General admission tickets for public performances of "The Snow Queen" are on sale in the KU ticket offices: University Theatre, 864-3982; Lied Center, 864-ARTS; and online at kutheatre.com. Tickets are $10 for the public, $5 for all students and $9 for senior citizens and KU faculty. VISA and Mastercard are accepted for phone and online orders. Jeanne Klein, associate professor of theatre and film and director of Theatre for Young People, said the production will be most appreciated by families with children ages 9 and older.

Members of the cast include (listed by name, class and major, parents' names, high school and role):

FINNEY COUNTY
From Garden City
Alicia Gian, graduate student in theatre, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Gian, Garden City High School; Snow Queen and Group.

JOHNSON COUNTY
From Stilwell
Matthew Crooks, freshman theatre and English major, son of Nancy Wunderlizh and Mike Crooks, Blue Valley High School; Troll and Group.

LABETTE COUNTY
From Parsons
Lavinia Cybele Roberts, sophomore theatre and creative writing major, daughter of Mary and Richard Roberts, Parsons High School; Grandmother, Robber Woman, Conjuror Woman, Lapland Woman and Group.

LEAVENWORTH COUNTY
From Leavenworth
Jon Matteson, sophomore theatre and film and English major, son of Matt and Christine Matteson, Leavenworth High School; Crow and Group.

RENO COUNTY
From Hutchinson
Travis Lechtenberg, sophomore aerospace engineering major, son of Thomas and Barbara Lechtenberg, Buhler High School; Author and Group.

RILEY COUNTY
From Manhattan
Cassidi Kay Stuckman, sophomore theatre and film major, daughter of David Stuckman and Michelle McGuire, Manhattan High School; Gerda.

SEDGWICK COUNTY
From Wichita
Jennifer Faust, senior theatre major, daughter of Barbara Faust, Wichita Heights High School; Robber Girl, Mrs. Crow, Finland Woman and Group.

NEBRASKA
From Omaha
Robbie Gordy, freshman theatre and pre-law major, son of Mr. and Mrs. Brent Gordy, Millard South High School; Kay and Group.

TEXAS
From Plano
Ben Cook, sophomore theatre major, son of Rick and Carol Cook, Plano Senior High School; Reindeer, Prince and Group.

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