The latest BSU theater production is nothing less than a trip through the looking glass.
Alice in Wonderland begins July 24, but don’t expect to see Alice, the Mad Hatter and friends frolicking on a campus stage: The show is an immersive production being staged at Plimouth Plantation.
Using the many rooms of an on-site mansion and adjacent Hornblower Gardens allows the play’s cast and crew to re-imagine Alice and her world as if it were a real place. That’s the essence of immersive theater.
Director Colleen Rua, who’s studied this form of presentation, explains it best: “With immersive theater, it generally involves the audiences moving with the actors through different spaces,” she said. “It engages all of the senses, and features one-on-one interactions with the actors. What I think is the most important aspect is that the audience members become characters in the play. It’s very cool.”
For Alice in Wonderland, the audience will be split into four, with each group following a different track through the mansion and, depending on the track, see a particular version of the play.
“Imagine four different versions of the play happening at the exact same time,” Dr. Rua said. “You could see the show four times and get four different stories.”
Audiences for each performance will be limited to 50 people.
The idea for staging the play in this manner grew out of a course Dr. Rua taught last year called Children’s Theater Tour. The study of immersive productions was part of the curriculum. When word came that Plimoth Plantation was looking to collaborate on a project, immersive Alice was born.
Eleven students and five alumni are working on the production. They not only needed to create the realistic sets, they had to create four different versions of Carroll’s classic story of a young girl who embarks on a very strange trip.
“Our actors and playwrights have started with the basis of what Lewis Carroll has given us and then said ‘What if?’ and then filled it in,” Dr. Rua said. For instance, what happened to Humpty Dumpty before he fell off the wall? Or, what’s it like to hang out with the Cheshire Cat?
The play will feature puppets (created by local puppeteer Joe Wood) and oversized props to make the journey as surreal as any traditional version of the play.
Alice in Wonderland at Plimoth Plantation runs approximately 90 minutes and is a family-friendly show. Professor Rua recommends audience members wear comfortable shoes for there is some walking involved. The show runs from July 24 to Aug. 24, Mondays through Thursdays at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. For tickets and more information go here.
The production is sponsored by BSU Theatre, Arts for Youth and Plimouth Plantation. (Story by John Winters, G ’11, University News & Media)