Live: Alice in Wonderland

Swasti Singhai, Final Focus Editor

Complete with lighting repairs and novel animations displayed through projections, the theater is back since the COVID-19 pandemic closed school with the play “Alice in Wonderland” by Eva La Gallienne and Florida Friebus. 

The play follows 13-year-old Alice as she ventures into Wonderland—a mythical world where queens, bugs and everything in between run wild. As she travels throughout the realm, she meets people who teach her important lessons, none of which make sense at first.

Tamara Powell (11), playing Alice, is able to show her character develop with the aid of theatre lighting and projection techniques. 

“It’s definitely a humorous story about Alice maturing, because there are moments of her changing sizes, like when she drinks a drink and becomes bigger,” Powell said. “So we’re relying more on projections, and this is our first time  using them, but this show’s projections are really good.” 

Lighting designer Agosto Villalva (11) has been working with projection designer Kyle Dillon (11) to execute special effects with shadows and dimensional altercations. For Alice, Dillon and Villalva played with the environment on the stage and ended up making a door look smaller, creating the illusion of a larger Alice. 

“It’s a very whimsical show, and that’s very dependent on the projections,” Villalva said. “There are many aspects where things are shrinking, growing, and the world around Alice is transforming, so the lights and projections help us tell the story in different ways. With the curtains we’re able to produce a really cool effect that wasn’t on stage before, and it’s really interesting how the projections and lights go together in unforeseen ways.” 

Villalva also took the colorful nature of the play into consideration when designing the lights. The stage will occasionally be lit with one color and other times the scene will be brought to life by a mix of different colors. 

“The lights make it seem like the actors are standing on a whole different stage,” Villalva said. “It really adds a personality to the show.” 

Though performing “Alice in Wonderland” was a last-minute decision—a shift in gears after a change in scheduling for another title—Director and Producer Robert Townsend said the story allowed for a lot of creativity in the production. 

The company took a different approach on the classic play, opting to present it with a more mature, mystical perspective as opposed to the traditional cartoonish, childish nature of the story. 

“A lot of it is taking out the goofiness that Alice has, and instead presenting a take on the life of a teenager through this dream that Alice walks through,” Assistant Director Megan Greer said. “Different aspects of her life present themselves to her in that dreamlike state.”

The production’s coming-of-age theme resonated with the students, particularly after the pandemic. 

“It’s about a young lady coming to maturity and finding out how to become an adult,” Townsend said. “It is a fantasy and it’s interesting, but especially in the last year, with students being faced with the realities of life and having to mature even more than normal. The company really related to the story as a whole.”

Greer said that one of the biggest differences with this production and previous ones is the flexibility that the cast and crew showed, noting that they were unable to get into the facility until last month. The design process started in August, though the location of the play was unknown at the time.

“Pretty much every member of the cast is playing multiple roles and covering for different parts,” Greer said. “That’s not really something we generally do when it comes to the cast acting as multiple people. So everyone’s working towards the same goal, and while that’s something we always do, it’s especially true for this production. Everyone has really been full hands on deck trying to do everything they can after not being in the facility for so long.” 

Kendall Ratcliff (9), playing the Dodo Bird in Act 1, Humpty Dumpty in Act II, and an understudy for the Cheshire Cat, says that the theatre company is taking a new perspective on the Cheshire Cat.

“Townsend had the inventive idea to have five people play the Cheshire Cat,” Ratcliff said. “So now, it has this creepy effect of a bunch of voices speaking from different parts of the stage, and it all flows together really nicely.” 

While “Alice in Wonderland” is not a musical, the play consists of numerous instrumental transitions, four live songs with dance accompaniments sung by the cast members, including Cassandra Nguyen (12), Morgan Montesi (12), and Meredith Dahl (10).

Townsend said that Westview Theatre Company looks forward to welcoming the audience into the theater space to dig back in time to revisit a story from classic literature.

“It’s just a different feeling to come into a shared community space to support students, friends, and family members on stage doing what they love,” Townsend said. “And I want to help people remember how exciting it feels to be back in that space together.”