Theatre Guild to put on classic ‘Alice In Wonderland’

The cast of “Alice in Wonderland” includes Jolee Southerland, left, as The Duchess, Larry Bunton as the King of Hearts, Emily Livesay as the Queen of Hearts and Britney Newman as Alice. The production opens June 14 and runs through June 23.

The Theatre Guild has been creating one of the oddest places ever imagined for their upcoming production of the classic tale of “Alice in Wonderland,” which debuts Friday night at 7 p.m. for six performances.

Making the beloved story and whimsical characters of Wonderland jump from the page to the stage has demanded innovative and highly imaginative creativity.

“Like all the shows for the Guild this season, we wanted to take a well-known and popular story and present it on stage in a unique and engaging production,” Director Joe Powell said.

“For this show, we sat down with our creative team and decided to re-create the actual experience of encountering the book itself for the first time. So Alice begins in a simple, dreamy summer day but once she quickly descends down the rabbit hole following after the White Rabbit, the stage opens up like a book — book with illustrations and even pop-up sections. The design is similar to watercolor illustrations and as Alice enters and explores the world of Wonderland, the stage set changes with each encounter and each act.”

The creative team includes Powell, Scenic Artist Dundee Rick and Guild Creative Director David Horton, longtime collaborators for the Guild.

“I think it’s safe to say we can and have imagined many, many worlds over the years but for this production we pulled out all the stops and just followed our imaginations,” Powell said. “No limits.”

Casting the show was also an enormous task, with nearly 60 people from ages 9 to 67 seeking to join in on Alice’s adventures.

It’s no surprise, Powell said, since Lewis Carroll’s story first published in 1865 has never gone out of print and has been translated into over 100 languages. There’s a universal appeal to the story, a story which includes sly satires on all aspects of life, education, adulthood, logic and learning, manners and society and expectations.

“Sometimes,” Powell said, “Life just makes no sense, no matter what age you are. As everyone says in Wonderland, ‘we’re all mad here.’”

Another vital element is the costuming for telling this adventure in Wonderland. After all, with the exception of Alice, the residents in Wonderland aren’t really normal people at all. A variety of animals and even inanimate items come to life. Powell said costume and prop designers Heather Livesay and Laura Gula let their creativity run loose, too.

The large auditorium at the Morristown VFW Post 5266 provided a much needed space for a large set, large set pieces and a cast of 25 local actors and actresses.

“The Guild is truly grateful for our veterans and the generous hospitality of Michael Jacobs and the rest of the VFW is so greatly appreciated,” Guild Board Chair Kellie Ward said. “They have made us welcome in their home.”

“One of the very best things about working with the Guild is how everyone in the cast and crew get involved at every level of the production - they help build the set from the ground up and also help make props and costumes,” Powell said. “The actors don’t just learn lines, they learn about all the creative opportunities live theatre offers. Some performers are on stage for the first time with this show, others have years of experience.”

The cast includes: Alice – Britney Newman; White Rabbit – Houston Barrett; Queen of Hearts – Emily Livesay; Mouse - Olivia Hedke; Caterpillar – Larry Bunton; Cheshire Cat – Kailey Grace; Duchess – Joelee Southerland; Dormouse – Robert Trinklein; March Hare – Katie Haun; Mad Hatter – Hunter Tinney; Gryphon – Cynthia Wright; Mock Turtle – Nick Andrew; King of Hearts – Larry Bunton; Knave of Hearts – Christian Devotie; Red Queen – Becky Shirley; TweedleDee – Jenna Lawson; TweedleDum – Jacob North; White Queen – Katrina Bosse; Humpty Dumpty – Teresa Ridgeway; and Executioner – Andrew Walters. The ensemble is made up of Gracie Akins, Destiny Dalton, Kaitlyn Pritchard, and Bethany Snyder. Stage Manager is Chris Wylie, with assistance from Tori Bevelheimer and Emily Livesay.

Performances are June 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 7 p.m. and June 16 and 23 at 2 p.m., with all performances held in the auditorium at Morristown VFW Post 5266. Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for Senior Citizens and $12 for students. Tickets can be reserved online at www.theatreguildinc.org.

For more information, call 423-586-9260.