Once upon a time in Richmond, VA...
FALL OF THE HOUSE OF SNOW
Story Concept and Inspiration
The "Legendary" House of Snow
Courtesy of Earl Fleming
The House of Snow family in 1984 at “Introducing the Snow Family” at The Bachelor’s Mill in Washington. Housemother Christmas Snow surrounded by her “snowflakes,” clockwise from bottom right, April Snow; Autumn Snow; Sheniqua Snow; Jay Snow; Victoria Snow, the current house mother; and Zaviara Snow.
Like many of the people who came of age in the 80s, I could not imagine the impact the newly dubbed “Gay Cancer” would have on my life, my town and eventually the world. By the time my son’s godfather, John Bryant, Jr., succumbed to the disease in 1996, HIV/AIDS had become rampant and the casualties weren't just the people filling up the graveyards. John was always good for a quirky story and during his last days, he shared with me a nugget of a story -- after a hard night of partying, he woke up in a house full of drag queens. As I watched gay venues in Richmond became depressingly empty and the glittery men who used to fill them wither away, John’s story inspired me to give these men, who were being demonized and pushed to the margins, a name and a voice.
the House of Snow
Reigning House Mother
Victoria C. Snow
Fall of the House of Snow was first conceived as a short story for a creative writing class in 2000. The title and magic of Snow was inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s, Fall of the House of Usher. The character names are based on the real members of the House of Snow in Richmond, VA. The House of Snow is the oldest black surviving house of female/male impersonators in the state of Va.The members of the House of Snow dazzled the nightclubs with their electrifying performances in the 1980s and 1990s. The first draft of the story earned a scholarship to participate in the prestigious Hurston Write Foundation Writer’s Week (2000). The story would go on to be published in The Hoot and Holler of the Owls Anthology (2001) and Woman’s Work: The Short Stories (2010).In 2006 the short story was adapted into a play. With the addition of more complex characters, the play not only expands the definition of family, but also highlights the impact of the disconnection with family relationships, church and the community and provides a platform to discuss addiction, unhealthy sexual behaviors, social stigmas, politics and the difficulty in identifying as Black, gay and male. In 2007 the play was awarded a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award and Governor’s citation. The $3,000 grant afforded me the opportunity to produce a reading Washington, DC with an original score, composed and performed by Rhe Washington, of Chicago, IL.
Fall of the House of Snow is a drama set in a small metropolitan city in Virginia during the late 1980s. Essentially, the ‘House of Snow’ is a family of gay, Black men who have joined together for security and support. The ‘House’ not only bears the name of Snow, each of its members has adopted Snow as their last name. References to the ‘House’ are both literal and figurative.The Lady Satin is an apparition who keeps a watchful eye over the House of Snow. In her prime, she rose to what would be known today as "Legendary" status on the east coast. Lady Stain then packed her bags and traveled to Paris to pursue her career as a vocalist and stage performer. Several years later she returned to the USA wanting to see family and share with them the fortune she had amassed. Lady Satin's family rejected her and she thus purchased the House of Snow. She decides that eventually she would make the home a place where gay black men who struggle with their sexuality, are outcasts or feel isolated from their loved ones could live peacefully s a family. Unfortunately, Satin doesn't live to see her dream of the House of Snow becoming a safe haven for men. However, she does meet her young protege, Miss Easter Snow. In her dotage, Satin bequeaths the house to Easter who becomes its matriarch. Over the years the house had several borders that were all gay men seeking refuge. But it wasn't until Easter opened the doors to April, Autumn, Christmas and Kenny to share the house with her, that a family was formed. They not only lived as a family in the house of Snow, but they become performers who represent the house on the gay club circuit. With all their human frailties and complexities, the Snows may argue among themselves, but they support each other through their relationships, insecurities and tests of faith.
(The play is based on a story told to the author. Any similarities to the play’s characters and any other female impersonators are totally coincidental.)