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Snow Dragon, an original play, is sure to mesmerize
Gainesville Theatre Alliance members paid close attention to the creation of the "Snow Dragon," made of steel and special fabric. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

The winter child in "Snow Dragon," named Troika, was found as a baby by hunters in a fantasy Russian village.

She is raised by these hunters but always knew she had a special gift.

Troika can hear things that other people just can’t.

"She’s always different," said Gay Hammond, playwright and director of the Gainesville Theatre Alliance’s WonderQuest theater for young audiences. "She plays in the snow all the time and she never gets cold. She has an adopted sister that she loves, whose name is Aiya, and there are some comical hunter characters.

"But she hears things that other people don’t hear — the heart beat of the little rabbits asleep under the ground."

Troika then hears the presence of a being called Great Heart.

"She can hear his heart beat, and we find out later this is the magical snow dragon in the ice cave, and he can hear her and he talks to her," said Hammond about the 21st play she has written. "We have two actors that play the dragon and one plays the puppet, plays the dragon’s body ... and the actor plays the dragon’s soul or voice. She can’t see him but she can hear him talking to her."

Jeannie Crawford took on the task of creating and bringing the dragon to life for the Gainesville Theatre Alliance. She sketched and consulted with designers in Atlanta and started building the fantasy animal in June.

"I think it is magical," said Beth Kendall, marketing manager for the Gainesville Theatre Alliance. "The show is a little different than we have done in the past; it’s an original story. There are a lot more special effects in this show than there has been in other ones, and that is partly because of the fantasy nature of the story. It was important to have a dragon that was not Barney-like; we wanted a majestic dragon."

Crawford paid close attention to the steel ribs and shape of the dragon’s head. Steel sculptors created the dragon’s body, and Crawford, along with help from theater majors, constructed fur-edged Russian-style costumes for the rest of the cast.

Special fabric was used to create spikes, which can be molded when heated.

The Gainesville Theatre Alliance is set to open "Snow Dragon" on Friday. The members expect more than 5,000 children will show up for performances done just for school groups.

"Then we will probably see another 1,200 to 1,500 people for our family performances," Kendall said. "This Friday we are nearing 400 tickets, which is really good for a WonderQuest show ... Friday night is a Meet-the-Actors reception afterward."

Tickets for the play can be purchased online, over the phone or at the box office.

"People can actually can go and select their seats (on the Gainesville Theatre Alliance’s Web site)," Kendall said. "I think a lot of people really like to go in and say, ‘I’d like to sit in the balcony but only if these particular seats are available.’ So people go to the Web site and can choose their seats or we do have box office sales during the day between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. And we do walk-up sales for public shows as well."