Behind the Story: Crafting Snow White

rackham_snowdrop1“When Snow White was a girl, her step mother came to the castle. She brought with her a beautiful dowry; silks of every color, stones of all shapes and sizes, but the crowning piece was the mirror. It was as tall as a man with beautiful carvings around the edges, and though it was lighter than a child she had four strong men carry it to her room and place it upon her wall.”

I never thought that I would craft the story of Snow White. Everybody knows the story, and everyone knows where it is going to go. It has traveled pathways in the memory and I was not about to bore an audience with my rendition. But then, one afternoon as I was talking things over with Cooper I had a question, “What if the mirror ended up on Snow White’s wall just as we get to happily ever after?”

So began the version that I tell now.

In this version the mirror never speaks. Snow White hears her step-mother say the words “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” But I never have the mirror answer back. One could say that the mirror only speaks in the mind of the step-mother, but with many of the Grimm tales I use magic sparingly and work to find practical ways that these stories happen. Often the story is all that is needed to transport the listener. The storytelling is magic in itself and I don’t need to add anything.

As the story worked its self out I had to really tease out how Snow White ends up in a happy-ever-after situation. My first problem there was the prince. What weirdo would see a comatose girl and think “She would make a great conversation piece for my parlor…or other places in my house.” Creepy… So he had to change his approach. Thus he became a deus ex machina for the dwarves when their darling Snow White succumbs to the third murder attempt. Give that girl a Life Alert pendant! He offers the aid of his physicians, but has none with the hunting party and so they must take her to the castle.

The second problem was the death of the stepmother. How was she going to die? In the original story she is made to put on red hot slippers and dance to death in the snow. And thus we got the macarana. Kidding. Grimm humor. But the problem was either the king was the monster who murdered her, or Snow White was twisted enough to think up red hot shoes. Either one changes where I wanted Snow White to be at the end of the story. So I had to get find another way to “remove” her step-mother. When it is all said and done Cooper gave me an idea that really worked and that is something you will have to listen to the story to find out.

And so eventually I came to the end. How does the mirror end up coming back to haunt Snow White? How does any part of our childhood come back to petrify our souls? Ah, well. I cannot give away all the secrets. I recorded it and it is linked here.

“Mirror mirror, on the wall…”



Snow White and the Visual Map

This month I am performing five shows in a row at the Boulder International Fringe Festival. I have told particular stories over and over, but never in a one week period for five shows. The build up of external and inner pressure has my alarm tugging at my eyelids at 5:30am, when I am just starting to get to the interesting parts of my dreams. I lay there and listen as the stories creep up to the bedside and remind me that while I may have needed sleep, they did not.

So I climb out of bed and move in story. Each story is has a mental visual map and the trick for me is to find the words to tell the listeners what I am seeing. Some stories have natural visuals, I do not need to search too far for words. Yet, there are others that are known so well that I want to find another path with which to show the story.

For the Fringe Festival I have taken on Snow White. Now, every one knows that story. Skin as white as snow, hair as black as ebony, and lips as read as blood.

(Small tangent here – why name her after her skin? “Blood Red” would have been a rocking name and probably a very different story. I suppose it all is commentary on the story and the historical value at the time, but still…)

The work I have chosen to take on as a storyteller is showing the listener that we are going to talk about Snow White, but from a different angle so that the tale is fresh and heads down a different path. In this case, the tale crafted itself to be completely from the perspective of Snow White. Because I made that choice, I had to find ways to complete other parts of the story without directly talking about them.

For example, Snow White never found out what happened to the huntsman. She flees into the forest, stumbles upon the dwarves and the huntsman fades away. So in my story, as the mysterious woman slips a poison comb into Snow White’s hair she whispers, “People lie, child. They lie about who they are, they lie about the size of children’s hearts and they lie about how long they can last when punished.” A bit dark granted, but this is no fairy story. Well, it is – but you know what I mean.

This is why with each story I walk the visual path until the end and then continue to refine words. So, with five shows coming up, I have five times to walk with Snow White, and hopefully together she and I will find our way out of the forest.


Why Hello Autumn..


Why hello autumn,
Fancy seeing you here at the end of summer.
Shall we play hide-and-seek
For the next few weeks?

I will cover my eyes-
the palms of my hands
and the pressure of my to-do list distracting me
as I count my way through September.

Then, one day,
I will open my eyes for a moment at a red light,
or a minute during a walk,
or whole hour during a run,
and find you.

The creep of the orange flame on the willow tree,
the slow burn of red in the cottonwood.
The flowers curling back into the earth who pushed them from her.

If only in our autumn,
when our hair grows white
and our legs grow brittle
we could curl back into the cool soft earth of our mothers.
But I digress.

After I have sought you out, autumn,
I will hide my eyes again and count to October.

When it has come you will not be playing hide-and-seek any more,
you will be playing tag and you will be “it”.

You will chase me with cool breezes up the toes of my sandals.
You will follow me into buildings with wet, sticky leaves.
You will catch me pulling my sweaters from the bottom drawer and compliment my extra layers.

What games we will play, you and I!
How often you catch me at the end of summer unaware and sunburnt.

What games do you play with the changing season?