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Westsides Alice a unique collaboration

by: VERN UYETAKE  Junior Jayne Ruppert stars as Alice in Westside Christian’s production of “Alice in Wonderland.”

When Westside drama director Michael Shelton gave students the opportunity to help choose which show to perform, the story of 'Alice in Wonderland' resonated with them.

Their unique stage production opens Friday at Alpenrose Dairy Opera House and incorporates many collaborative aspects, including working with local pianist and composer Michael Allen Harrison and Do Jump! dance theater.

Harrison wrote an original score to accompany the production, and he and his musical group will play the music live at each performance.

Kaija Magee, a junior at Westside, has been involved with Do Jump!'s youth performance company for six years. She plays the role of the Cheshire Cat and will integrate trapeze and silk-tissue work into her role. Do Jump! has been working with her on creating choreography that is both imaginative and storytelling.

Junior Jayne Ruppert stars as Alice. Other lead roles will be performed by Sam Penner as the Mad Hatter, Kaitlin Helm as the March Hare, Chris Lea as the perpetually late White Rabbit and Thomas Buchanan as the existentialist Caterpillar. In addition to Magee, Meleah Williamson and Lisa Andrews also play the seemingly omnipresent Cheshire Cat.

Harrison became involved with 'Alice in Wonderland' after Westside's drama teacher, Michael Shelton, sent out an email looking for a composer for the play.

'I love working with kids,' said Harrison. 'It feeds my soul.'

Shelton is excited about the opportunity to collaborate with Harrison on this project, as well as with local dance troupe Do Jump!

Harrison composed his music to match the emotional pitch of the script, at times dark and mysterious and ending with a joyful and triumphant mood.

'It's a mysterious story that's really compelling,' Harrison said. He describes the play as an adolescent girl's anxiety dream, where Alice is 'trying to figure out her path' in life.

'Alice in Wonderland' performances will be held at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Nov. 11 and 12, and at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 13. All performances will be at Alpenrose Dairy Opera House, located at 6149 S.W. Shattuck Road in Portland.

Tickets are available online at www.wchsonline.org or at the Alpenrose Dairy Opera House box office prior to each performance. To reserve group tickets of 20 or more call 503-307-7474.