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West's bleak winter comedy reflects life in Red Wing

Author Jacqueline West. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia

Before author Jacqueline West began writing plays she was acting in them.

West grew up around community theater, so when she moved to Red Wing she was eager to get involved.

"I don't think I'd know anybody in town if it weren't for community theater," West said. "Or Red Wing Singers."

West is best known as a young adult and middle grade author — her "Books of Elsewhere" series is a New York Times bestseller — but she has written plays in the past. Her debut play "Under the Bed" was staged four years ago by young actors at Twin Bluff Middle School. There are others she admits to writing as a teenager that she's not eager to revisit.

Now, after years of performing with Phoenix Theatre and the Soapbox Players, West is ready to debut her first play for an adult audience. "Snow Day" will be brought to life by the Soapbox players this December.

West currently serves on the Soapbox board and she said she admires the troupe's ability to experiment and give a small audience a unique experience not found in larger, more monied productions.

For her, debuting "Snow Day" — which is about a small Midwestern community — in a small Midwestern community, for a small Midwestern community, is a dream come true.

"At the first readthrough ... it was so much fun to hear these people put so much life and humor into these characters," West said. "We had to stop because everybody was laughing so hard."

"Snow Day" is a dark comedy that imagines a world where winter is never ending due to climate change and friends and family in a small community has to deal with it on their own terms.

The idea for it all came to West about three years ago, during a polar vortex.

"I remember being outside with the dog in the afternoon, and it was so cold — just paralyzingly cold," West said. "The schools were closed and half the businesses were closed and everything was so silent."

"It was just that feeling of everybody is huddled in their house trying not to lose their minds."

West said that the overriding idea about this play is community.

"These characters are so flawed, there's no hero and no villain in this play," West said. "It's about how we need each other. Even when we disagree, or disagree violently, we are stuck together. And in this play they are stuck together literally because they're stuck indoors."

"It's really about how, as human beings, we need other human beings."

"Snow Day" runs Dec. 1-9, 2017, at Hobgoblin Music Loft.

West isn't sure if she'll write another play, she writes ideas that stick with her in whatever form feels natural for them, but she is looking forward to the release of two new middle-grade novels next fall. "The Collectors" from HarperCollins will appeal to fans of "The Books of Elsewhere" and an untitled collaboration with the Story Pirates, based on input from a 12-year-old girl, are both due to come out in October 2018.

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