Contributed by Naomi Mirny
Sometimes putting on a drama can be quite a drama.
The cast and crew of the freshman play faced some unusual challenges this year, but they adapted to the demanding circumstances. Along the way, cast and crew have creatively shaped the classic, “Alice in Wonderland,” allowing students to leave their individual marks on the production.
First, there was the problem of divided locations. The freshman class studies partly in the Old Lincoln School, but their theater space is in the Black Box at 115 Greenough. Some crew members were worried that it would prove hard to switch back and forth between these two locations. Fortunately, according to Elena Maimonis, drama teacher and director of the play, adjusting rehearsal time to the schedule hasn’t been too difficult.
“It is a little tricky because a lot of times people want to get snacks after school or they have to talk to teachers,” Maimonis said. “It hasn’t been as overwhelming as everybody was anticipating it to be.”
Freshman Ben Kaplan, who plays the role of Humpty Dumpty, agrees.
“It seems bad on the surface but the cohort travel is actually pretty painless, and to be honest, the walk isn’t that long,” Kaplan said.
A further challenge was that the production schedule allowed for less time this year than is typical. Last year, rehearsals started on the first week of October and ended in December, while this year, the show is set to go up at the end of October.
They have less time to prepare this year because Maimonis is also directing the musical, which goes up mid-January. According to Maimonis, the musical is slightly overlapping with the play, so it is possible that some freshmen had to choose between the play and the musical. The compressed schedule may explain why fewer students came to audition than in previous years.
“The audition took place earlier in the year and maybe not as many freshmen felt acclimated or ready to jump into something right away, whereas last year they had a few weeks to get settled,” Maimonis said.
Another possible reason that there were fewer auditions is the disconnect between the high school and OLS. According to Maimonis, publicity was challenging without the ability to find students in the halls.
But now that production is rolling, the cast have concentrated their attention on making the play as great as it can be.
“This show is filled with very dynamic characters, and I love being able to morph the Disney version and the newer modern Johnny Depp version into one,” Maimonis said. “Every single scene is completely different than the one before, so the audience will never know what to expect. They’re always on their toes.”
The actors also have a lot of freedom as to how to play their characters. The character Humpty Dumpty, for example, who doesn’t always feature in the movie versions of “Alice in Wonderland,” is open to many possible interpretations.
“I went in the direction of making him kind of angry and annoyed, and it’s actually turning out really well,” Kaplan said. “The costume I’m planning is a tuxedo with a yellow tie to be like a yolk. I got a character that allows me to put out my own idea of a persona.”
Similarly, the Queen of Hearts, played by freshman Mila Stojanor, allows for creative interpretation of big emotions.
“One moment she’s yelling about one thing, and another moment she’s yelling about something else,” Stojanor said. “I also love how regal she is. I love that I get to put on a posh accent and do my thing.”
The production also takes advantage of the diversity of talents in the cast to represent the poetry in a variety of forms and media.
“The poetry is all a part of the original, but in this version, we are adapting it to fit the talents of the actors playing those roles and to what could spice up the play to make it our own original piece,” Maimonis said. “Some of it is spoken as a poem, some will be sung, some will actually have the music playing over it and dancing underneath.”
The play is also an opportunity to mix the freshman class’s color cohorts. In a class that is divided between red and blue cohorts, many freshmen welcomed the chance to make friends from the other group.
The production of “Alice in Wonderland” has turned out to be a way for members of the freshman class to form a community that spans the geographical divides of the freshman class and introduces them to the drama society.
“It’s a very welcoming community. I have never done anything acting-related before so I was a little nervous because I have two older sisters and both of them were ‘the acting people,” Kaplan said. “But, it’s been really nice to come here and find all these warm figures.”
“Alice in Wonderland” will run for six performances. The run begins on Wednesday, October 30 at 3:30 p.m. A show follows on Thursday, Halloween, at 3:30 p.m., and another on Friday, November 1, at 7:30 p.m. And finally, there are two shows on Saturday, November 2 at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
The cast and crew hope that the play will be as fun to watch as it was to produce.
“It’s a very wacky and fun play,” Stojanor said. “At times, everybody is like ‘what is going on?’ but that’s sort of the point. It’s this journey through this land where nothing makes sense. And the things that do make sense make sense in a different way. You just have to laugh and be totally confused by these utterly bizarre characters.”