The Black Snowman opened this weekend and runs through February 23rd at SteppingStone Theatre. This play — by the late local author Deborah Torraine — celebrates Black History Month with a story of a recently orphaned boy searching for himself and his place in his family and in the bigger picture of his heritage. The young actors did a beautiful job portraying young siblings doing their best to cope with the loss of their parents. Overall the play was a great family outing.
At the beginning of the play, the audience was reminded that Steppingstone is run mostly on donations and we were promised that they would make the most of every dollar given. This was demonstrated for us in the production. The cast and crew did an amazing job of creating scenes with very little. There were no special effects or expensive props, yet the sparse backdrops were perfect for keeping the focus of the play where it belonged — on the characters and their relationships.
The story focuses on Jacob and his journey to rebuild his self-esteem and connect with his family and ancestors. But, his 18-year-old sister Taliba is also struggling to find joy in her first Christmas as sole caretaker for her brothers. Younger brother Tony is just trying to keep everyone happy. This is a lot of emotion to fit in a short play and this is where the production really shines.
This play is probably best appreciated by older kids — grade school age and up. Our two-year-old had to be taken out midway through the play and our four-year-old barely made it to the end. The third-grader enjoyed the play, but I think much of it went over her head. If, like us, you choose to go into this play without any preparation or study, you will have an enjoyable family outing. However, I wish we had prepared a little. With so much material to cover in a short time, the play is sometimes hard to follow, but having a knowledge of the story would make it much easier to keep up. If I were to do it again, I would read the book prior to going — it is less than 50 pages.
The Black Snowman by Phil Mendez is an award-winning book for both its content and art. I would recommend grabbing it from the library before you go. There is also a study guide available from Steppingstone. I also recommend printing it to have on hand. As much as we enjoyed ourselves, I wish that I had done my homework beforehand and prepared us for this play.
Joy Peters is a co-creator and writer for FamilyFunTwinCities.com