A classic fairy tale on ice

As she heard the music for her character begin, Lucy Kriner stood. With a boot on her foot, the 17-year-old couldn’t actually skate on the ice where the rest of the cast was rehearsing for its upcoming performance of “The Little Mermaid,” but she could mirror the movements she was watching.

“I have to have four days off ice,” the Laurel resident said, of her ankle injury. A skater since a young age, Kriner plans to continue skating when she attends the University of Delaware in the fall, where she has secured a spot on the school’s ice synchronicity team. She will miss, however, performing with the Gardens House Figure Skating Club.

“I like it because it not so focused on technique,” Kriner said. “You just perform and be a character. I can play a character with my actions.”

Featuring a cast of 46 skaters ranging in age from 5 to adulthood and of varying skill levels, the Gardens House Figure Skating Club has been putting on a spring ice show for 14 years, according to Donna Kassel, second vice president of the club’s board. Rehearsals started the first week of January for this year’s production, which tells the story of a little mermaid and her adventures once she becomes a human. Converting an ice rink into an ocean, ship and castle is no easy matter. It is one of the many challenges putting on an ice show the group tackles head on.

“Ice makes it kind of magical,” Kassel said, whose daughter, Abby, is a performer. “You take a show done on stage or land and transform it.”

Sets and props must glide easily on and off the rink. One year, during a production of “Peter Pan,” a boat got stuck to the ice.

“It just stayed there the rest of the show,” Kriner chuckled.

Costumes must allow for easy movement. Hand-held props are also a challenge for skaters, according to Sam Devroye, 13, who plays King Triton.

“I have to hold a trident. It’s hard,” said Sam Devroye, 13, as anything in a skater’s hand affects balance.

While there are falls and occasional collisions, there have been no major accidents that Kassell could recall, outside of a skater in a previous show misjudging a set and landing on it during a jump. He was OK, she said.

Madison Jones, of Laurel, hurt her hand last year while performing, she said.

“I banged it and had to ice it when I got off,” said Jones, 14. “You have to get up and continue and go right back out there.”

Perhaps the most obvious obstacle is the temperature.

“It does get cold,” Kassel said. “We keep skaters warm with hand warmers and blankets. Back-stage moms may take the younger skaters back to the locker room.”

There are also hot beverages available for both the cast and crew. Between performances, there are snacks, too.

“The kids have a lot of fun and the adults do, too,” Kassel said.

As a co-cordinator of the show, Candy Kriner is responsible for everything off of the ice, including organizing volunteers to help with costumes, food, set-building, ticket sales, etc.

“It’s a lot of work, but it always turns out great,” said Kriner, who is Lucy’s mother. “As with any show, it always come together.”

Originally from Florida, Suzanne Devroye has never ice skated before and has no plans to, though she has two children — Sam and Isabella — in the show.

“I have no desire to do it,” the North Laurel resident said. “Falls on the ice are never good.”

She and her husband do volunteer many hours with the production, however, including building the sets.

“The workshop is my garage and my dining room sometimes,” Suzanne said. “It takes a lot of people to get it done.”

To keep everything out of site during performances, the club invested in professional drapes that extend from the back of the rink and along the sides. The club also uses a professional lighting company for its shows. While the director and choreographer are paid positions, everyone else involved with the production are volunteers.

“There is so much to do,” Kassel said. “It’s a lot of work, but worth it.”

Besides the spring production, the group produces a winter solstice performance and a summer solstice show. The club holds numerous fundraisers throughout the year to help defray some of the costs of its productions. For the first time this show, the club is offering seat cushions featuring its logo for $10.

“It’s a chance to show off our club,” said Sandi Olek, whose daughter Maddie, is a skater. “Some of these skaters started out in not huge roles like playing cards or flowers. They’ve come full circle and made lots of friendships.”

The Gardens Figure Skating Club presents “Little Mermaid on Ice” on April 14 and 15, at 1 and 3:30 p.m., at 13800 Old Gunpowder Road. Tickets are $12 and $20 and are available online at seatyourself.biz or at the door. For more information, go to gardensfsc.org

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