Lewis Carroll's famous tale gets redo from Haven Project and a diverse cast
Wonder-land has never been this weird.
In 'The Alice Event,' a new musical by the Haven Project, two Alices share the stage after the famous plunge down the rabbit hole. One is female and the other is male.
'I was excited by the idea of Wonderland, where anything is possible,' playwright Tania Myren says. 'I decided to split Alice in the fall. Her journey is toward wholeness. Lewis Carroll's story is episodic. It's not really a journey. This is more about finding resolution.'
Gretchen Corbett, who founded the Haven Project in 1995, directs. 'I've wanted to do the Alice stories for years,' she says. 'After Sept. 11, we focused on what we really wanted to talk about. We're trying to talk about the journey from terror into wonder.'
The Haven Project gives economically disadvantaged children in Portland a chance to create original theatrical works with professional artists. For 'The Alice Event,' teen interns have assisted in set construction, marketing, ticket sales and other tasks.
'This project helps kids understand that what they have is of great value,' says Corbett, who starred on the television show 'The Rockford Files' in the 1970s. 'True creativity has nothing to do with our economic or educational background. We hope to give the kids the opportunity to experience responsibility and accountability and an understanding of teamwork. It's also a great way for artists to give back to the community.'
Leah Gibson, 17, is a student at the high school completion program at Portland Community College's Cascade Campus. 'I've always been into acting,' she says, 'but they matched my interests up with stage managing. As a stage manager you have to be able to communicate with everyone. Everyone is a different spoke in the wheel, and I'm at the center of the wheel.
'The internship has opened my eyes. I notice how artistic everyone is. I have more respect for theater in general.'
The production crew for 'The Alice Event' has made full use of the Dolores Winningstad Theatre. Actors will appear in the balconies and the aisles, giving every audience member an up-close and personal experience.
Most of Lewis Carroll's characters appear, including the Queen of Hearts, the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter. 'But there are a couple of anomalous, contemporary things,' Myren says.
Corbett's daughter, Winslow, plays the female Alice. She says that she's had some trouble wrapping her head around the absurd elements of the production. 'It's challenging to go into any totally fictional world that has little to do with logic,' she explains. 'Tania uses imaginative language that's similar to Lewis Carroll's, but it has even more tongue twisters. It's unlike anything I've done before.'
'The Alice Event' has a formidable cast, with most of the actors playing multiple roles. Acclaimed actress and cabaret singer Susannah Mars plays the White Rabbit, and Portland Center Stage regular Ted Roisum takes on the role of the Cheshire Cat. Shelly Lipkin,
co-director of Cygnet Theatre, portrays Lewis Carroll.
New York composer Karl Mansfield and Los Angeles composer O-Lan Jones wrote the 12 songs in the production.