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Saint Mary’s theatre department to adapt ‘Alice in Wonderland’ for an outdoor, interactive stage

| Friday, October 2, 2020

The Saint Mary’s theater department will be showing performances of “Alice in Wonderland” Thursday through Sunday. The adaptation of the popular tale was originally supposed to be shown last spring, but was rescheduled due to COVID-19.

“The story we are telling is drawn directly from Lewis Carroll’s original text,” director Mark Abram-Copenhaver said. “Almost all of the dialogue is drawn directly from the novel. In order to keep the show a reasonable length, 45 minutes, we have eliminated many of the scenes from the novel, but we have kept those which are the most iconic, including the Cheshire Cat, the caterpillar, the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and the Queen’s croquet game, among others.”

This particular show, however, will look a little different than past productions shown by the theater department.

“Originally, the adaptation of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ was designed to emulate the production techniques used in the show ‘Sleep No More in New York City,’” Abram-Copenhaver said. “In that show, the audience journeys with the actors through 50 different environments in a converted warehouse facility. The storytelling is nonlinear and the audience gets to follow whichever actors they choose.” 

In the spring, the production team planned to host the performance in one of the residence halls. The audience and characters were to start on the main floor. Audience members would then follow Alice down the rabbit hole to meet the other characters and enter different scenic environments. This format has now been adapted to be suitable for outside conditions surrounding Lake Marion.

“As we were preparing to return for the fall semester, the production team and I decided that we could remount the work that we had done in an outdoor environment that would provide an opportunity for social distance and the safety that the outdoors brings, while still keeping the innovative technique of having the audience follow the performers from environment to environment,” Abram-Copenhaver said.

“Alice in Wonderland” has many parallels to the current world situation, and comes at a unique time when many events have seemingly sent us down a rabbit hole, Abram-Copenhaver said.

The production also offers students and faculty an opportunity to experience another community event.

“Alice’s story has delighted adults and children for so many years primarily because of it’s playful and whimsical treatment of otherwise serious matters,” he said. “It is fun. And right now, both the players and the audience are in desperate need of some fun.”

Students involved with the production have also shown excitement as its premiere draws nearer.

“The entire cast and crew has shown admirable dedication to making Alice in Wonderland come to life in a safe and fun way,” sophomore Sydney Ellis said.

Ellis will be playing the role of the caterpillar.

“This is my first theater production and I am so grateful to have had such a kind and welcoming crew,” she said.

Sophomore Fiona Connelly is one of three Saint Mary’s students cast as Alice.

“A message I would like to send to the Saint Mary’s student body would be that this show is a great example of how we can persevere in the midst of a pandemic,” she said. “Instead of canceling a show that so many people have done hours and hours of work on and poured their soul into, we used our creativity to make the show as safe as possible, such as adding fun character masks to the costume and incorporating social distancing into the blocking. I love this show and I hope everyone else will too.”

The show will take place around Lake Marion, and community members who attend should gather in front of Haggar Hall, Abram-Copenhaver said in a Sept. 25 email. The email also noted that students and faculty are required to register for the show beforehand due to a restricted audience size. Only Saint Mary’s students, faculty and staff are allowed to attend the production in accordance with safety protocols.

A registration link was included in the email for audience members to reserve their spots, as there is a 20 person limit for each show. Admission is free and themed masks will be provided for all audience members. All actors and audience members will adhere to social distancing and practice safety protocol.

The show will be filmed and shared with family members and those unable to attend the show. Abram-Copenhaver also explained that the College will be a participant in the American College Theater Festival this year, with the hopes that Alice in Wonderland will be shared with other colleges in the region in early 2021.

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