Smart Arts hosted the National Players on Oct. 22 for their theatrical production of Alice in Wonderland. While the story itself may be classic, this was anything but traditional theater.

The play was a modern adaptation of the classic children’s book of the same name. Most people would probably be familiar with Lewis Carroll’s famous novel by either having read the book itself, or from its film releases such as the 1951 cartoon feature by Disney, or perhaps the more recent live-action film by Tim Burton in 2010.

A modern adaptation would usually be thought of as a slight change in the script to give the play more relevant to a modern audience, however it was more about a utilization of modern technology.  Instead of a traditional play, this was what cast member Melissa Carter described as a “low-fi multimedia production.”

Instead of changing sets and backgrounds, the play used a large screen in the middle of the stage which projected a live feed from two camera stations on either side of the stage. These stations were used to create a kind of live puppet show where the cast used figurines, paper cutouts, shadow puppets, or their own body to create a scene.

The puppeteering was done by the actors themselves Carter described the process as “endowing these objects with a personality of their own.” It was a creative way to replicate some of the more supernatural moments of the story such as Alice’s changing of size or swimming in an ocean of her own tears, which may have been rather challenging with traditional methods like props and backdrops.  The whole thing felt a bit like watching a live version of Monty Python cartoons.

The actors of the show displayed a wide variety of talents throughout the performance. The characters of Wonderland weren’t simply a single actor, but an ensemble of actors creating one fantastic creature. The character of the caterpillar, for example, was made up of three actors moving in unison.  An impressive display of choreography to say the least. Emily Brown, who played Alice, described the importance of “assembling a cast with a strong chemistry.”

Each actor had something unique to bring to the show. Ken Hopkins Jr. who played Giant Alice, had a scene in which he broke out into a hip hop number.  Hopkins said that the song came about when the cast was told to “come in with a show and tell.” It’s interesting to consider the amount of input each cast member must have had in the creative process.

All and all, the show was a unique performance that combined traditional acting and non-conventional storytelling that created a world that is truly fit to be called “Wonderland”. The National Players will return to WCC on Saturday, May 12, 2018, to perform a modern adaptation of “The Great Gatsby.”

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