Green Hippo enhances The Snow Queen
Monday, 29 June 2020
snow-queenThe Snow Queen was the first taste of professional-level theatre production for many of the students
South Africa - In early March, before the arrival of the coronavirus, the University of Pretoria (UP) delighted hundreds of children from Pretoria, Mamelodi and Eersterust with a production of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen at the Masker Theatre.
The work was directed by Professor Marié-Heleen Coetzee and was developed through a collaborative workshop process with students studying drama the University of Pretoria, together with UP Drama Department alumnus, Ben Pienaar, who played the role of Snow Queen. The University’s outreach programme, UP Partnerships in Progress, sponsored attendance for learners from Mamelodi and Eersterust, providing many children with their very first theatre experience.
When Prof. Coetzee first conceptualised the work, she realised that funding for the production was going to be a challenge, especially as the story takes the audience on an epic journey from a rustic cottage in the woods, through the wilderness to a frozen castle in the wastelands and back again.
Knowing the work with virtual sets that South African theatrical lighting designer Wilhelm Disbergen is renowned for, she reached out to him for assistance. “Wilhelm is one of the most talented theatrical lighting designers in the country, and I was deeply humbled by his immediate willingness to come on board and turn our vision into a reality,” says Prof Coetzee.
Once onboard, Wilhelm used the Green Hippo Media Server to design “a breath-taking visual landscape” for The Snow Queen. “We wanted to transport the children watching the show to another world and bring this classic fairy tale to life for a new generation,” explains Wilhelm. “Working with a minimal technical budget, the use of projection on a silver screen, set up as an infinity wall, allowed us to create a deeply engaging set at almost no cost.
“Today’s children are used to experiencing the world through digital images,” states Prof. Coetzee. “Merging the old and the new to introduce children to the magic that is live theatre is a great way to bridge the divide between the analogue and digital worlds.”
While using a virtual set created through projection solved many challenges, it came with its own set of obstacles. “We have projectors in our technical inventory at the University. However, they are not, necessarily, the most powerful, and we, therefore, had to strike a careful balance between lighting the stage and the actors while not spilling light onto the silver screen, diminishing the effect of the projected set,” Prof Coetzee explains.
The Snow Queen was the first taste of professional-level theatre production for many of the students and served as an excellent teaching tool for participants and young audience, alike. “The Snow Queen was a student production and we try to support our young talent as much as possible, while also allowing them space to take ownership of the project,” says Prof. Coetzee. “I am extremely impressed at how well they rose to the challenge, and am excited to see these artists and technicians grow in the years to come.”
Wilhelm’s collaboration on the project provided an experience for the students who receive entertainment technology as part of their studies. “Having the opportunity to collaborate with a lighting designer of Wilhelm’s calibre on my very first production was a real privilege,” says Ané Hendricks, who ran the show from front of house. “Once I discovered what you could do with the Green Hippo, I can’t wait to develop my skills and am very excited about my future in this industry.”

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