Down the rabbit hole: ACT! for Youth presents ‘Alice in Wonderland’
Posted on April 1, 2021
In the ACT! for Youth production of "Alice in Wonderland," Sarah Joyner, from left, is Mad Hatter, Enza Russo is Alice, and Ashley Beamon is Queen of Hearts. A live, but limited, audience is planned for this show. Janelle Clevinger | For Wide Awak
ACT! for Youth cast members and crew might be down the rabbit hole, but audiences can enjoy performances of “Alice in Wonderland” inside the Boykin Center on April 16, 17 and 18, making this the first community theater production held in the venue since the COVID-19 lockdown protocols began in March of last year.
“This show was pitched for the 2020-21 season, and the timing has worked out that we can have shows with audiences,” said Seth Penwell, director of “Alice in Wonderland.”
“Auditions were held on Feb. 22, and we have been practicing in the Boykin from the beginning.”
Penwell said that rehearsals began with temperature checks for everyone and as much social distancing as possible.
There will still be changes involved in audience numbers, ways to view the performances and even some “costume” changes.
“Unless things change (statewide mandates), the actors will wear masks during the show,” Penwell said. “Masks aren’t as much of a challenge as you think, but facial expressions are hard to do. But safety is of the utmost importance, and if a mask is the most important thing we can do, then we’ll do it in order to have live performances.”
The cast features Enza Russo as Alice, Sarah Joyner as the Mad Hatter, Lydia Denton as the White Rabbit, Ti’a Ward as the Cheshire Cat and Ashley Beamon as the Queen of Hearts. There are a total of 34 actors and 19 tech crew members with some overlap.
Karyna Parrish is heading up costumes and make-up for “Alice in Wonderland.” Technical direction is by Shaun Braswell.
Penwell said that it has been especially nice for the cast members and crew of this show to be able to get together since so many have not been able to see their friends for months. Canceled spring plans also allowed for a larger number of youth to come out to audition for this production.
He said that the biggest surprise that has come out of rehearsals for this production has been the change in the tone of the show.
“When we first read through the play, it wasn’t super funny,” Penwell said. “But when the actors put their own spin on the script, it became really funny.”
The ACT! for Youth production stays true to Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” as far as the way it will look to audiences.
“The whole idea of this show in regard to the way it looks is a ‘storyland illustrations’ theme,” Penwell said. “The sets are very colorful but less Disney. They are more illustration-oriented.”
Penwell and Braswell made sure that set production, costume creation, backstage management and sound production all involved student participation.
“We want the students to have as much of a hands-on experience as possible” Penwell said. “Our goal is to sit back during the actual shows and have the students run it all.”
Seating for all shows is limited to 30% of the Boykin Center’s total occupancy, which means 180 total attendees allowed, and audiences will be spread out within the venue. Attendees will be required to wear masks and seated by household groups by ushers as they arrive. All households will be seated 6 feet apart in all directions. Concessions will be for sale, and people can remove their mask to eat.
For anyone who does not feel comfortable attending a show in person or would simply like to watch a performance from the comfort of home, livestreams of the performances will also be available.
Tickets for “Alice in Wonderland” are on sale now at the Boykin Center box office: $12 for adults and $10 for seniors and students. Livestream tickets are $7 and are available on the Wilson Arts website, wilsonarts.com/actforyouth/. Ticket transactions are completed through On the Stage, the platform used for the production’s livestream. The Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m. The Sunday show is at 3 p.m.
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