The story of Alice and her trip down the rabbit hole is being brought back to its roots in CSU’s production of “Alice in Wonderland,” directed by Eric Prince. The show opened Thursday evening and will run for two weeks.
In order to achieve a production true to Lewis Carroll’s original vision, cast and crew first discarded with preconceived Disney notions of the show.
“There’s such a visual precedence for Alice,” said costume designer Siobhan Gleason. “Alice wears a blue dress, the Red Queen is in red, but we tried to turn that on its head a little bit. We looked at a lot of Lewis Carroll’s original sketches and we tried to bring that to life on stage.”
Much of what is seen on stage, including the costumes, is very Victorian, echoing the time period during which the book was written. Everything is wrapped, however, in technology that is distinctly modern.
Swooping screens make up the backdrop and provided a blank canvas for projections designer John Erickson to create a Wonderland using state-of-the-art projection technology.
“My job was to add the first touches of wonder to Wonderland,” Erickson said. “It’s pretty new technology, so people are still wowed by it, honestly. And it adds this interesting backdrop where anything can change at any moment.”
This play between the old and the new aims to bring out the child in everyone, a goal that lies at the heart of Carroll’s creation as well as Prince’s take on the show.
“Lewis Carroll was a very Victorian man, he was a shy man and a mathematics tutor who stuttered, but when he was with children, it was like it brought him out of himself,” Prince said. “He could be imaginative and childish. I was interested in the idea that this shy man who wasn’t interested in theatre, or poetry, could liberate himself by talking to a young girl and create this wonderful fantasy.”
One of the most obvious manifestations of the child-like spirit that inspired the story is Alice herself, played by Kate Lewis. To tap into this spirit, Lewis reached into her past.
“I tried to personalize Alice by getting in touch with my childhood,” Lewis said. “Alice’s innocence creates a stark contrast to the distortions of Wonderland, so it was important for me to incorporate childlike mannerisms.”
These Wonderland distortions are every bit as colorful as one would expect, though they all maintain a human quality that is unlike many interpretations of the story.
Instead of animals and objects that have been personified, Alice finds herself surrounded by people injected with animalistic elements and details drawn from the objects they represent.
This is achieved through unique costume and makeup choices, which work together with other elements of the show including the set, the lights, the projections, the acting, and the audience’s inner child to create a complete Wonderland experience.
“Seeing everything come together is so satisfying,” said Ben Hilzer, who plays the White Rabbit. “There are some amazing character portrayals and some hilarious British humor. Not to mention wonderful original music written for the show. It will make people of all ages laugh and be amazed at the technical aspects the show has to offer.”
Tickets for this experience are available for free on Thursdays for students and on Sundays for the general public. Otherwise they will be $8 for students and youth, and $18 for adults. There will be shows on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday until May 4.
Collegian Entertainment Reporter Katie Salka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.