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Sunday, December 16 , 2018, 9:55 pm | Fair 52º


‘Alice in Wonderland’ Suits Providence Hall to a Tea

With a cast of six students, familiar roles will see familiar faces in the school's version of the Lewis Carroll classic

Heeding the words “DRINK ME,” the Alice in Wonderland ingenue imbibes and finds herself transformed into something smaller than she could ever have imagined. This weekend, six high school actors will find themselves before an audience of equally small attendees as they pump out the whimsical play. The Providence Hall theater group has been working for weeks to turn the children’s tale into the school’s fourth production, which will tour several elementary schools before two regular shows at its home theater.

As the group runs through a dress rehearsal, all the main characters are there, and all the actors but Alice are playing multiple roles. Sophomore T.J. Jan is playing Alice’s father, the white rabbit, a caterpillar, the Mad Hatter and Tweedledee, which should prove to be no small task. “It can get crazy at times,” he said.

Chloe Eaton, also a sophomore, is playing the Cheshire Cat, the queen, the duchess and a caterpillar. “I’ve never played this many multiple roles before in one show,” said the teenager. “It’s an interesting challenge.”

Watching the cast run through the rehearsal is director and acting teacher Kate Paulsen. In addition to teaching, Paulsen is a professional actor, and started the theater program for the 2-year-old Protestant high school last year. She said more than half the student body has been involved with the performances in some way or another.

Alice in Wonderland follows the school’s third show, Twelfth Night, which debuted last fall. Paulsen’s brave effort to introduce the group to Shakespearean language had the group working for months. She even taught the young actors in a class “Playing Shakespeare” to prepare them for the performance, in addition to their rehearsal.

Most high schoolers are introduced to Shakespeare on a literary front, but few learn to act the works so young. “I didn’t learn how to play Shakespeare until my last year in college,” Paulsen said.

In spite of the almost herculean task, “people were thrilled with the last show,” she said. The emphasis on classical literature has been important in her work with the school’s theater program thus far, she said.

“It’s stretching them in different ways. There’s a different kind of energy that goes into playing Shakespeare, and a different energy in doing a play for kids,” she said. “I wanted to do something completely different.”

With this show, Paulsen had the actors go through two rehearsal periods dedicated to acting for children. “There has to be an element of teaching this style before you can get to the point where they can play with it,” she said.

Playing multiple roles has been a challenge for the group to overcome, which was one of the reasons Paulsen chose the play for the group.

When Ensemble Theatre Company’s Storybook Theatre performed Alice in Wonderland in 2006, Paulsen played Alice and worked with Miller James, who adapted the Lewis Carroll children’s story and wrote music for the play. Providence Hall music teacher Sara Di Salvo has also been helping the young actors with the play’s musical numbers.

The show will visit five elementary schools and will be hosting two mainstage performances in the Providence Hall Auditorium, 33 E. Micheltorena St. on Friday and Saturday. Both shows begin at 7 p.m. and tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for students.

Click here for more information on Providence Hall.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at [email protected]

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