The Snow Queen

Among the many things Howard did for me was introduce me to my closest friend, Nancy Parent. When I met her, Nan was an undergraduate at Indiana University. Howard told me she was like a sister to him so I took an immediate dislike to the woman. It didn't last long since Howard was right, of course, and Nan soon became like a sister to me, too.

Here's something she wrote about Howard from back in the day:

"A new children’s theatre musical written by a graduate student. So? There were auditions posted practically weekly for graduate students’ productions. But this wasn’t any run-of-the-mill graduate student. This was Howard Ashman’s Playwriting & Directing Master’s thesis production. And we all wanted to be in it desperately.

Somewhere out there were Howard’s latest, soon-to-be legendary, leading ladies waiting to play the key female roles—Gerta and the Snow Queen. It would not be his star from The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore. Although Kim Waters would have made a commanding Snow Queen, she couldn’t meet the musical demands of the role. So, whoever Howard cast, they were going to be two of the luckiest, most envied divas in all of IU’s Theatre Department.

Howard treated his leading ladies with a respect, reverence, and admiration that surpassed any actresses’ expectations. It never felt like work with Howard. It was an ongoing melodrama filled with passion, desperation, empathy, and love. There were never any wires, but Howard’s leading ladies always soared to great heights with performances that came from deep within. And the joy that came with taking flight in such amazing, loving, and talented hands was a feeling we would all remember and cherish forever."
-Nancy Parent


  • I just wanted to comment on this, since I just got what appears to be the original copy of Howard's Snow Queen thesis (through interlibrary loan - working at a university has perks!) :)

    I haven't looked at it much, but I can already tell it's priceless! It's just a fascinating piece of history - and my husband pointed out that a lot of this same analysis shaped the future of Disney, so that makes it even more valuable! I can't wait to look at it - but I'm waiting until I can do it in a sheltered library, far away from my cats who would love nothing more than to walk all over the book!!
  • Cool. I don't think I've ever seen a copy. Howard must have had one somewhere. We've gone through his papers to send to the Library of Congress but I don't think I saw it. I'll ask Bill.
  • This copy is the one that was on file at Indiana University. It has a crossed out "not for circulation stamp" on one page. The title page has Howard E. Ashman typed, and someone (I'm guessing, comparing the handwriting on the photocopied director's script pages, that it was actually Howard), filled in the name Elliott (wrote "lliott" next to the E) in pencil. :) :) And it has pasted in copies of the program from Snow Queen, and white out on some of the pages!

    I'm still somewhat astonished by this book - I was NOT expecting that when I put in the interlibrary loan request I would even get a copy, and I was absolutely not expecting they would just send me out the ORIGINAL!!!!

    I'm at Cornell University (where I work), and I'm planning to take the book over to the Rare Book library and see if they have a clean room or something - I'm a little scared I'll damage it!! Especially if this is the ONLY copy, I don't want it harmed - this belongs in the Library of Congress collection for sure!
  • Cool. I don't think I've ever seen a copy. Howard must have had one somewhere. We've gone through his papers to send to the Library of Congress but I don't think I saw it. I'll ask Bill.
  • I let the Indiana University Rare Books Library know what a treasure they have in circulation! Apparently they do have two copies, but I'm hoping they at least decide to put one of them in the rare books section, out of interlibrary loan circulation at the least! :)
  • You know, I realized I was wrong. Pretty sure we sent a copy of his thesis to the LOC.
  • Is The Snow Queen available for performance? I music direct children's theatre musicals (adults performing for children) in the summers and a Howard Ashman piece would be a dream come true!
  • Sorry, it's not. It was an early work and we don't think Howard would want it produced.
  • Is it available for viewing? :)
  • Not that I know of, sorry.
  • Sarah and Nancy,
    Was just watching Theatre Talk recently on PBS and Alan Menken was the guest and they were talking about Howard, so I got all weepy, went to the computer and discovered your site. I hope you are well. I'd like to think I'd still be considered a friend, although IU, The Snow Queen and the WPA seem so far away (but still in my heart). I was both one of his actresses, if only for a moment, and of course an early costume designer. Sarah: I have photos of Howard as Astrov in Uncle Vanya (my thesis show).
    Where are you both? I'm in Connecticut and a minister now. But "those were the days." I still miss him, as I know you do.
    Why do you think he wouldn't have wanted Snow Queen produced/licensed? It really is perfect for Children's Theatre.
    Blessings, Marcia Cox
  • I got the copy I read through university inter-library loan. If anyone has access to a university library and wants to see something about Snow Queen, I recommend reading Howard's thesis. It's a fascinating read! I also discovered that the composer, David Lee Cline, has HIS thesis available, if you want to see the music. Both are held at Indiana University.
  • Considering that Disney in making their own adaptation of The Snow Queen, wouldn't it be grand for them to incorporate some of the elements from the thesis that Howard had written?
  • I wouldn't hold my breath over it, Kiorage.

    They're slating it for release on November 27, 2013, and they're not even going to call it "The Snow Queen." They're calling it "Frozen" instead. The company hasn't stated whether or not the film will be CGI or cel-animated, but based on their EXACT release date that they've given so far in advance, I'll bet you anything it'll be CGI.

    Do you hear that? It's the sound of Howard turning in his grave. And yes, I was very reluctant to use such an onomatopoeia for this scenario. Forgive me, Sarah.
  • Not a problem and thank you for my word of the day!
  • I was in The Snow Queen! What a joy it was to work under Howard. I knew Nancy, David, Stuart...

    He had such a magical way with words. I did not know him for long, but what a gift that brief encounter was.
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