Snow White Study Guide
Adapted by Greg Banks
Directed by Aurora Browne
This study guide was written by Abby Skene. As you scroll through the guide, you will find curriculum connections, discussion questions, units of study, and more. If you wish to create your own lesson plan from the study guide copy, we have created a lesson plan template for your use. We hope you will find this guide to be a useful resource. Should you have any questions or feedback or have enquiries about the use of this guide (which is copyright protected), please feel free to contact Molly Gardner, Senior Education Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a retelling of the traditional Snow White, focusing on the central character and how she tells her story, along with the help of Four – one of the seven dwarfs. These two characters take on the task of telling Snow White’s story by playing all of the other characters themselves. It is a journey that empowers Snow White to feel confident in herself and in telling her story. This performative adventure and modern take on the traditional fairytale demonstrates that who tells the story matters — and that there is value in listening to multiple perspectives or points of view.
Disrupting a “classic story”.
This adaptation of Snow White disrupts a traditional fairytale and reimagines it. Snow White is a so-called “classic text” and the sources from which we typically know this story – from book, to stage to film — have been problematic in multiple ways, including elements of racism, classism, depiction of women, and depiction of Little People.
So why do we do modern adaptations of fairytales?
Modern adaptations can be powerful. They can offer alternative narratives to the pervasive stereotypical fairytales engrained in our pop culture. This can uncover our biases and allow for new values and possibilities to be explored and expressed. We think it can be especially meaningful for young people to interrogate these classics.
How is this retelling of Snow White different from other versions of the story? What are the values in this adaptation of Snow White? Is it an important story to tell and why? We encourage you to have this discussion after the show.
The Arts – Drama
Health and Physical Education – Healthy Relationships, Healthy Living
Finding strength in being yourself
The value of multiple perspectives
Telling traditional stories in new ways
Snow White and Four are eager to tell their story to the audience but there is just one problem…the rest of the characters are not there yet! Can they tell the story with only two people? With some persistence, Snow White convinces Four they can tell the story truthfully all on their own. They embark on an exciting journey with magic mirrors, evil stepmothers, humble huntsman, energetic forests and kind dwarfs. As Snow White navigates forests, friends, vanity, and doing what is right, we see her gain independence and confidence in her ability to tell her own story.
About the Playwright
Based in the U.K, Greg Banks has been working as an actor, writer and director since 1979. His work has taken him from Singapore to Seattle via Moscow, New York and the Arctic Circle. Whilst building a reputation for making and touring new work in small-scale venues throughout the UK in the 80’s, his work has also been seen in the West End and at the New Victory on Broadway. In more recent years he has focused on producing theatre for young and new audiences. Since 2003, alongside his work in the U.K. Greg has been a guest Director/Writer at The Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, where amongst others he has directed his own adaptations of Huck Finn, Antigone, Robin Hood, Pinocchio, Jungle Book, Snow White and The Hobbit. Greg’s not new to Toronto – his play Spirit Horse, produced by Roseneath Theatre, has toured extensively in Canada since 2007 (presented at YPT in 2016), but he is very excited that YPT has chosen to produce his adaptation of Snow White.
A Costume Drawing from Designer Laura Gardner
“When Aurora Browne (Snow White’s director) and I began discussing the costume design direction for this production, “textured”, “timeless” and “transporting” were words that came up that really guided me to land on these costumes. I began by doing some research into folk costumes of different cultures, and I looked for pieces that, mixed together, would create a timeless and eclectic wardrobe. Snow White and Four have been living in the woods for some time now, and their clothes have become indicators of that. These are work clothes that the two have also decorated, adding pockets, or mending. They aren’t shabby – they are homemade and well cared for.
Snow White is wearing a shirt with a knit collar, a bodice or vest, wide legged quilted linen pants, and some lace up boots. The specific Snow White piece will be a beautiful capelet, an item she was wearing when she left the palace, and has kept in a safe place ever since. It is made out of a beautiful timeless brocade, with tassel fringe along the hem.
Four’s costume consists of some well-loved corduroy overalls, a shirt, a patchwork cotton chore coat, a leather homemade half apron, and some shoes and cable knit socks. He will add this blue alpine hat, to become the seven.” – Laura Gardner
- adopt the attitude/point of view of a fictional character (e.g., in dialogue and writing in role); using body language (e.g., posture, gestures, facial expression), costumes, and props appropriate to a character; varying vocal levels, tones, and ranges to support the depiction of a character
- engage actively in drama exploration and role play, with a focus on examining issues and themes in fiction and non-fiction sources from diverse communities, times, and places
- demonstrate an understanding of the element of role by communicating thoughts, feelings, and perspectives appropriate to the role being played
- express thoughts, feelings, and ideas about drama experiences and performances in a variety of ways
- demonstrate an understanding of appropriate listening behaviour by using active listening strategies in a variety of situations
- identify the point of view presented in oral texts and ask questions to identify missing or possible alternative points of view (e.g., use drama or role play to explore the perspective of the minor characters in a play; respond to a speaker who expresses an alternative point of view on an issue; ask a variety of people for their views about a topic)
- make inferences about oral texts using stated and implied ideas in the texts as evidence (e.g., ask questions to generate inferences about an oral text: What would happen if…? I wonder what was meant by…?)
- explain why different audiences might respond differently to the same media text (e.g., identify some different responses to their favourite music and suggest reasons for the differences)
- identify whose point of view is presented or reflected in a media text, ask questions to identify missing or alternative points of view, and, where appropriate, suggest how a more balanced view might be represented (e.g., this documentary about various athletes does not include athletes who have physical disabilities; another character could be included to represent their experience)
Health and Physical Education
- apply skills that help build relationships, develop empathy, and communicate with others as they participate in learning experiences in health and physical education, in order to support healthy relationships, a sense of belonging, and respect for diversity
Units of Study
By the end of the pre- and post-show units, students will:
- Develop an understanding and appreciation for play as a tool for learning
- Develop an understanding of character creation and understand how to represent different characters
- Develop an understanding of different perspectives and how different perspectives affect storytelling. They will be able to answer the question “who is telling the story and how does that affect the version of the story we are hearing?”
- Discuss and reflect upon theatrical experiences
Pre-show Unit of Study
Pre-Show Discussion Questions
- What makes a great story?
- What makes a great storyteller?
- How do we know who is telling the story? Is it the author? The storyteller? The performer?
- Do stories change when different people tell them?
- Who is your favourite character (this character could be in a TV show, movie, book, graphic novel, on YouTube)? Why are they your favourite?
- What are you most looking forward to about seeing a play?
Warm-Up: This Is Not a Blanket
The activity allows students the opportunity to become familiar with the theatrical convention of using one object to represent many things. It will also allow students to think creatively and use their imaginations.
Preparation and Materials
A blanket, scarf, or any neutral object (a ball, piece of paper, etc.)
- Have students sit or stand in a circle.
- Introduce the neutral object and explain that the object is passed around the circle with each student getting the opportunity to transform the object into anything other than what it is.
- Each student will get a turn and will say, “This is not a blanket. This is a ______” and demonstrate how that object could take on this alternative existence.
- Demonstrate to students how to transform the object. For example, you might say, “This is not a blanket. This is a magic wand.” then wave the scarf around and add magic sound effects.
- Pass the object around the circle until every student has had a turn.
- To challenge the students pass it around more than once. This requires students to think outside the box once their first choices have already been used.
If you have multiple blankets or scarves, split the class into small groups and have them create short scenes where they show the object being used in different ways. Every student in the group must use the object in a different way but the scene must have a beginning, middle, and end. For example, a group might decide to do a short version of Cinderella where the scarf is used as a rag, a wig for the stepmother, a beautiful dress for the ball, and the magic slipper.
- What was the easiest part of this activity? What was the most difficult?
- What uses for the scarf were the most entertaining and interesting? Was it more exciting when the scarf was turned into something similar to a scarf or when it was something drastically different?
- Why might an actor need to use one object to create many things on stage? Do you think that would make a show more or less exciting? Why?
Exercise: Yes, Let’s!
To introduce students to improvisation conventions and to support them in developing their creativity, risk taking and imagination in theatrical settings. Have students create different characters and use movement to communicate different actions without props or costumes.
Preparation and Materials
An open space where students can move.
- Have students spread out around the classroom (if you have a large class or limited space this activity can easily be done by splitting the class in two with half participating and half being the audience, then switching.)
- Students walk around the room and at any moment any student can say “Let’s______” and then give a suggestion for an individual activity to act out. This could be anything from “brush our hair” to “outrun a volcano spewing lava!” When a suggestion is given the rest of the class must respond “Yes, let’s!” and then act out the activity in their own way. Students should wait 30 seconds to one minute before giving a new suggestion.
- The activity continues until every student has an opportunity to give a suggestion.
- What was the easiest part of this activity for you? What was the most difficult for you?
- How did you have to move your body to show you were doing different activities? Which activities were the most difficult? Why?
- Did you use your body the same way for each activity? Why or why not?
Culminating Exercise: Theatrical Telephone
To introduce the idea that different perspectives can change the way a story is told and to allow students to explore their movement and non-verbal communication.
Preparation and Materials
Create an open space in the room.
- Divide the class in half and have them stand in two vertical lines, all facing backwards, except for the first two students in the lines who should face each other.
- Give the two students at the front of the lines a word for an activity to act out. Don’t let the other students know these words. Count down aloud “3, 2, 1, GO!” and then have the two students act out the activity to the next students in line. They should not use any words – only movement and actions. When the next two students think they understand what the action is, they tap the next student in the line on the back and act out their interpretation of the activity for them. This continues down to the end of the line.
- Once the last person in line has watched the word be acted out, they will show the student at the front of the line their interpretation of the activity.
- Once both groups have finished and compared the first and last interpretation they should show the other group their first and last interpretation. This will give students the opportunity to see how differently people can interpret the same idea and how communication of an idea can change as others interpret it.
Give the first students in line a three-sentence story instead of a word. In this version of the exercise, students must use words and actions to tell their story as it goes down the line. They cannot say the three sentences explicitly.
Examples of three sentence stories could be:
- Simonne tried to bake a cake. She left it too long in the oven and it burned. She had ice cream instead.
- The penguin wanted to learn to fly. He tried jumping and jumping but nothing worked! He found a jet pack instead which worked perfectly.
- The cow went to the supermarket. He tried to buy some milk but had no money. He borrowed some money from the sheep and went home.
- Were people’s actions easy to understand? If they were, what did people do that made their actions easier to understand?
- If we were doing this exercise again how could you make the word or story more clear to the person you were performing for?
- If the word or story changed as it went down the line, why do you think that happened?
- Do you think all stories change when many people retell them? Why or why not?
Post-Show Unit of Study
Post-Show Discussion Questions
- Who was the narrator in Snow White? How do you think that affected this version of the story?
- Is this adaptation of Snow White different from others you know? If so, what changed? Did anything stay the same? If you noticed some things had changed, in what ways?
- Why do you think only two actors played so many different characters? Did that make it exciting? If so, how? Was it ever confusing?
- How did the actors make it clear they were playing different characters?
- What were Snow White’s values and how were they different from her Step Mother’s?
Warm-up: How many characters can you make?
Have students develop their character creation skills and feel confident making choices.
Preparation and Materials
Several songs to play aloud to the class. These songs should have distinct styles that can evoke different character ideas. (a slow instrumental song, a pop star song, a rock song, etc.)
- Have the students walk around the room as themselves.
- Play the first song and ask the students to adapt the way they are moving based on how the music inspires them. Prompt the group with: how would this character walk? Would they be slow or fast? Would they be happy or sad? Would they be old or young? Would they be mean or kind?
- Once the students have had 10-20 seconds to explore one character change the song. They then have ten seconds to listen to the next song before they must become a new character.
- Continue until students have had the opportunity to create five different characters.
- Have a collection of different hats that students can use (instead of music) to evoke different characters. Have students switch hats with each other to inspire new character creation.
- As the students walk around as their characters periodically clap your hands together once. When you clap your hands, the students have to say one word they think this character would say. For more advanced groups have them say a full sentence or speak as their character for 15 seconds.
- What kind of characters did you create? Which song was your favourite and why?
- Did the activity get easier or harder with practice? Did having to change characters so many times feel exciting or scary? Why do you think that was?
- How did you make your characters different each time? Did you change your voice? Did you change the way you moved? Did you change how fast or slow you moved?
- Did anyone have a different character for the same song? Why do you think different people created different characters when the song was the same?
Exercise: Fairytale Tableaux
The goal of this exercise is to introduce (or reintroduce) students to a story structure (beginning, rising action, climax, dénouement and conclusion) and begin to explore the way THEY tell story and how their perspectives shape the storytelling.
Preparation and Materials
Create an open space
- Explain the term “tableau” to the class.
Tableau: a frozen picture created by a group of silent, motionless figures used to represent a scene, theme or abstract idea or an important moment in a narrative.
- Have students practice a couple of solo tableaux while sitting down. For example, you could use the prompt “show me a tableau of you reading a book” or “show me a tableau of you writing a very hard test”.
- Split the class into small groups and give each group a classic fairytale they know well.
- Ask the students to pick the five most important moments from that story and create five distinct images that tell the story. The images should go in order from beginning to end. Note: for younger students consider having them create 1-3 images instead.
- Give the students 10-15 minutes to create their images. A short timeline on this activity promotes quick and creative decision-making.
- Once each group is finished have them perform their images for the rest of the class. When the group is “on stage” count down from five for each image so they have time to get into each tableau. For example: “We will see image one in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 (hold for 10-15 second) we will see image 2 in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1” etc.
- Once the group has finished all their images have the rest of the class guess their fairytale and continue until all groups have performed for each other.
- How did you decide what were the most important moments of the story? Why did you think they were the most important?
- How did you communicate the story to the audience?
- How did you decide who played each character? Could you have played another character?
Have the students come up with a “twist” for their fairytale that must be included in their tableaux. For example, Cinderella could storm the castle and get her shoe back herself before the Prince comes to find her. The twist must be clear to the audience and only change one element of the story not the entire premise. For example performing Little Red Riding Hood as aliens might be confusing. Stick to specific, small twists.
Culminating Exercise: Snow White Retelling – Whose Story is it?
This exercise asks students to both explore character and their different point of views. It highlights the importance of the storyteller’s perspective and asks student to make strong character choices.
- Review the plot of the play together with your students. Who are the characters? What was the beginning, middle and end of the story?
- Split the students into small groups and give each group a different character from the play (4, 7, the Stepma, the Huntsmen, the Prince, and the Mirror).
- Ask each group to create five tableaux to tell the story of Snow White from their character’s perspective. If their character was not present for every part of the play, encourage them to be creative and imagine what that character would have been doing.
- Give the students 20-30 minutes to create their tableaux.
- Allow each group to present their images to their peers. Encourage discussion after each group presents. “What did that group do well?” “Was their anything that group could have done to make their images more clear?”
- Have the groups then use words to combine their tableau images. They must find a way to get through images 1-5 smoothly while adding voice and movement to their characters and images.
- Allow students 20-30 minutes to bring their images to life.
- Have students present their final Snow White retellings to the class.
- How did focusing on different characters perspectives change the story? Did the moral or lessons of the story change?
- How did your version of the characters differ from the versions you saw on stage? Why do you think that was?
- Do you think any of these stories would make great plays of their own? Why or why not?