SEE AMID: A Concept is Born

Updated: Aug 28, 2019

If you’re visiting this website and certainly if you’re reading this blog post, you probably know that I am in the process of mounting the world premiere of my third play, See Amid the Winter Snow. I thought it would be neat to chronicle the inception, writing, and production processes of the play before the world premiere in September.

Producing a show of this caliber costs money – money that my fellow producers Amanda Pasquini and Chelsea Cylinder and I need to raise! We need to raise $1,500 before July 25th. If you’ve enjoyed this blog post or others on this site and want to know how you can help our show and my career succeed, please donate to our fund here -> GoFundMe

A simpler time, before November 8, 2016

To go back to where it all began, we have to return to a simpler time – namely, September 2016. I had just begun my senior year at Wheaton College and I was in the process of mounting the world premiere of my second play, The Thousand-Year Rose, as director/stage manager/director of production/writer/set and sound designer (Now that I think about it, I don’t recall sleeping much in those couple months of my life). Anyway, it was pushing midnight one evening in the living room in my townhouse at 839 College Ave and I was on my laptop, browsing videos on YouTube like only the most mediocre of students. I don’t recall exactly how I got in this particular YouTube rabbit hole, but along the way, I discovered this movie trailer (which by that point was half a decade old):

I’ve not seen this movie, but in general, I do like Amanda Seyfried. She’s Karen Smith in Mean Girls, so I think she has to earn my undying respect for that alone. I owe a fair bit to Mean Girls – after all, the Plastics + Cady inspired the dynamic of the Witches + Kimmi in The Thousand-Year Rose (Regina/Abigail, Karen/Ciera, Gretchen/Vivian, Cady/Kimmi).

Oh my god, Karen, you can't just ask people why they're white

But I digress. This 2011 Red Riding Hood movie looks kind of bad. At this point, I don’t have any plans to see it in earnest, but there was something I found captivating about the trailer. They pulled off a gritty reimagining (as every franchise did around 2010 following Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman) of Red Riding Hood set in a snowy forest. Now of course, gritty reimaginings aren’t really my thing (well I guess, since I’m living in Philly after September 2018, I’ve seen everything as a Gritty reimagining) – but I loved seeing Red Riding Hood set in a snowy forest.

A Gritty Reimagining

This was the point from which I began thinking about my new script – a script I wouldn’t even write for nearly another two years. So back on that September night, I wasn’t going to bed anytime soon. I think I still had either some homework to get done or I needed to do some work on the show, but now it was pushing 1am. I knew my roommate of three years, Brendan, was coming back from the studio any minute. Brendan was a studio art major and lover of long, aimless conversations that were often conducive for exploring whatever stupid creative idea just came to either one of our heads in gross detail – and tonight, I had a new idea.

Right on cue, Brendan walked through the door, and his opening line was something along the lines of, “Heyy man – you want to make ramen right now?” and my response was, “hell yeah I do”, as most of our 1am interactions went. So we made ramen from those truly disgusting (but nonetheless delicious) instant ramen packets with a full week’s worth of sodium included in the “chicken seasoning” and added an appropriate amount of sriracha into the soup (because this, of course, was right after white people had discovered and subsequently overdone sriracha. I still use and love it). He told me about his day, I told him about mine, but then I made the transition to tell him about my newest idea.

PETER: So I have an idea for a new play
BRENDAN: Not the one you’re directing, right? I don’t want to hear about that until –
PETER: Right, no spoilers. (Grins.)
BRENDAN: No spoilers!
PETER: Yeah, no, this is a completely new idea.
BRENDAN: OK, so… what is it?
PETER: Picture this… there’s a guy and a girl. They’re dating, it’s pretty serious. It’s snowing outside, they’re in some kind of log cabin, inside, baking cookies.
BRENDAN: (Incredulously.) Baking cookies?
PETER: Yes, baking cookies. It’s important. So they’re baking cookies and having some kind of – uh – lovers quarrel, you know?
BRENDAN: Not really, but OK.
PETER: It gets to this point where she can’t take it anymore. So she picks up all the cookies off the plate in front of them and dumps them into a basket. She buttons up her red coat and throws the hood over her head and says, “I’m going to my Granny’s” and leaves. You hear a wolf howl. It’s intermission.
PETER: I want to write a play that accidentally turns into Little Red Riding Hood.

Speculative dialogue, written June 2019. Probably roughly how it went down.

And there we started. That was my first pitch for play number three. I was someday going to write a play that accidentally turns into Little Red Riding Hood. And it was set in a snowy forest. It was actually a quick evolution from the initial idea “Red Riding Hood in snowy forest” to setting it at the North Pole and featuring Santa Claus et al. I wanted this next story to fit in the same line of whimsy of my first two plays (the first being set in a medieval Europe hodgepodge and the second being set in a mythical port village in Ireland with witches and hidden treasure), and the North Pole was a perfect fit for a fantastical snowy forest location – and for the record, most of my setting imagination is inspired by the video games of my childhood. Freezeezy Peak, Cool Cool Mountain, Chilly Waters, Shiver City, Sherbet Land, Summit, and Frappe Snowland are all examples of quintessential “snow levels” that helped shape my conceptualization of the North Pole.

Chilly Waters from Mario Party 3

So here, we had a concept in its infancy. There was going to be a story set at the North Pole featuring Santa Claus (but only as a minor character) in a plot that, by the time we get to intermission, becomes a retelling of Red Riding Hood. I knew the story had a couple at the center (and by this point had cast the boyfriend in the Red Riding Hood story as the woodcutter (no innuendo intended)), but it still only felt like half an idea. Now that the play was going to be a Christmas show, I found myself in dangerous territory of the script being dead in the water on the very basis that it was a Christmas show with a couple in the center – as you would know, most of the Hallmark channel Christmas movies are particularly sappy.

I don’t see myself as a romance writer whatsoever. I don’t enjoy rom-coms all that much and I enjoy rom-drams even less. I’d have to have more experience dating or being in a loving relationship to have much frame of reference to write from, so while I knew a relationship sat at the center of my new story allowing for that cookie baking/lovers quarrel/off to Granny’s house sequence of events to happen, I needed another angle into the story if it was going to get off the ground.

Luckily, the planning for this script was going on in late 2016 and I had a lot of current event material to work with

If you recall, 2016 was a turbulent year for the world. Brexit. Pokémon Go. Harambe. Disney started releasing all those live-action remakes. All this was going on and it looked like the world was being broken – and it sort of was. The wheels started spinning in my head in the direction my new play would ultimately take watching all the coverage and fallout of the 2016 US Presidential Election.

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