'Alice In Wonderland' Offers Opportunities For New Thespians To Try Theater
By: JOANNE BRIANA-GARTNER, February 5, 2014
Savvy directors may know that including children in their shows will insure a good attendance if only because parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles will be obliged to attend but savvy directors also know that bringing children into their community theater productions will do much more than that.
This month’s upcoming production by the Woods Hole Theater Company of “Alice in Wonderland” will be heavily kid-centric but make no mistake, it is not a “kids’ show.”
Community theater is one of the only places where children and adults work together with an equal sense of responsibility for creating something that is important to everyone in the group and intimately to the community as a whole. “Community theater that involves children is not a ‘children’s activity,’ it’s a community project for all generations,” said the show’s director Lisa Jo Rudy of Falmouth.
“A performance such as this, is one of the few times when adults in the community who are not teachers work with children and teenagers and get to know them as people, and vice versa,” she said.
This is Ms. Rudy’s second foray into directing community theater here in Falmouth. In 2012 she directed “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” at the Falmouth Theatre Guild, another show with a large contingency of children in the cast.
The cast for “Alice” includes approximately 35 performers, only three of whom are adults. Ms. Rudy estimated that probably half of the children already had experience in the theater while the other half were new, and of the three adults, two of them are also appearing on stage for the first time. Many of Ms. Rudy’s stage crew are also dipping their feet into theater for the first time.
While you can’t always work in everyone, as the director you can create more opportunities than they otherwise might have,” Ms. Rudy said. “You have the opportunity when directing to say yes to kids and to include a lot of people. It’s incredibly satisfying,” she said.
The production also includes dancers and musicians, with children playing multiple roles and performing a multitude of tasks.
When she went looking for a family show to direct, Ms. Rudy said she chose this adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland,” written by Holly Erin McCarthy, because she had performed it several summers ago at the Cotuit Center for the Arts, appearing as The White Rabbit. One of the things Ms. Rudy liked about the show is that at 90 minutes, it doesn’t need an intermission. “We’ve found this works well, both for audiences and for younger actors,” Ms. Rudy said. “It’s short, sweet, and there’s very little wait time between scenes.”
One of the things Ms. Rudy has learned that is important when involving children in theater is to keep them busy. You don’t want them sitting around backstage a lot, she said.
One of the hardest things about working with children isn’t the children themselves, “they memorize lines instantaneously,” said Ms. Rudy, but managing their lives outside of the theater. Children and teens rely on adults to bring them to and from rehearsals and it can be hard for working parents and for parents with other children who have other afterschool activities going on, Ms. Rudy said. “It’s a such a time commitment.”
Ms. Rudy has cast three actresses as Alice, partly because she needed Alices of different heights for different scenes, but partly in order to cast more people in the show. Along with the adults, the cast includes high school students, middle schoolers and children as young as 6.
In addition to interacting with adults, the children also find themselves hanging out with kids of different ages, something they wouldn’t normally do. Teenagers act as mentors for younger kids. “It becomes pretty natural,” said Ms. Rudy, who described the older teenage performers as responsible, funny and kind. “The little ones take to them a lot.”
All the children respond well to being asked to take on responsibility, Ms. Rudy said. At a recent run through the kids were offering their suggestions to Ms. Rudy on how best to hand off props. Not dismissive because of their young age, Ms. Rudy listened to what they said and responded appropriately.
The Community Hall in Woods Hole is unusual as a performance space because it is used almost every night of the week for other events, meaning that everything the performers take out to use has to be put back at the end of the rehearsal. “The kids can’t wait to help,” Ms. Rudy said. “They really want to be part of it.”
I think that they have a real feeling of the performance being theirs, said Ms. Rudy.
Production dates for “Alice in Wonderland” are February 14 at 7 PM, February 15 at 4 PM, February 18 and 20 at 7 PM, February 22 at 4 PM and February 23 at 2 PM.
Tickets are priced at $5 for children 12 and under and $10 for adults. Tickets can be reserved in advance by calling 508-540-6525.