CCAC Stages Alice in Wonderland

Thursday, September 27, 2018
The cast of Alice in Wonderland with director Quinton Mauldin (back-far left).
TD photo/Jane Gatewood

“Some people say, ‘Grin and bear it,’ but in Wonderland, I say, ‘Grin and share it.” The Cheshire Cat, played with a perfect grin and style by Kenny Smith, welcomed the audience to the final performance of Clay County Arts Council’s production of Alice in Wonderland, “where strange things happen” on Saturday night. Three performances entertained nearly 300 audience members, opening night drawing the largest crowd. The months of preparation and rehearsals were directed by Quinton Mauldin and Abby Baker.

The characters appearing in Alice in Wonderland did not disappoint with their costumes created by Kailyn Conley and their make-up by Jamie Woods. The White Rabbit, played with savvy and cute ears by Jackson Lynn, takes a dive into his hole, and Alice, the talented Audrey Little, tumbled along, onto the stage at Rector Community Center.

One of the first characters Alice met was a Caterpillar who charmed Alice with clarinet tunes including some blue notes. The creative Caterpillar, played with just the right touch by Emily Garron, advised Alice to be herself, “I’m always me, though I will soon appear as a butterfly.” Alice was also confronted by a grumpy footman, a big, green, rude frog, Jesse Sanders, stomping and hopping in bad temperament.

If patrons wondered where they had heard about “un-birthdays,” Humpty-Dumpty, costumed and played for laughs by Tonya May, explained it all to a wistful Alice who longed to get home by her birthday party. She and the audience were fascinated by the precious giggling flowers and their dance just before time for transplanting. Alice tried her key in every door she saw, wondering whether that would be the way home.

Tea time with the Mad Hatter played convincingly by Jer Allen, the March Hare, played on point by Renee Spence, and the sleepy Dormouse, Naomi Cox, in her precious little tea cup, confused everyone about Time and its meaning or lack thereof.

Ultimately, Alice is confronted by the Queen of Hearts in an elaborate queenly costume, hearts all around and a high standing collar made of oversized playing cards. Jennifer Vernon frightened all on the stage, including the squeeky-meek King, Caleb Higgins, and most in the audience as they believed she was ready to lop off a head. Accompanied by her elegant courtier Michaela Goldinger, she demanded that she always win, even in a croquet game played with mallets made from flamingo bodies.

Several hilarious sketches completed the show with Tweedledee and Tweedledum played by Brennan Nelson and Matthew Parrish putting the audience into stitches and the poor Mock Turtle, Jamie Woods, and the Gryphon, Hailee Vanhorn, entertained with dance and an ear-piercing vocal number. Other strange antics involved the Cook, Sandy James, who shook enormous amounts of pepper into everything and pitched pepper, plates, and utensils around the stage, causing jitters in the audience and sneezing and dodging among the players.

By the time the Tweedles (Dee and Dum) chased one another with swords through the audience causing children to squeal in delight, Alice was ready for trial, “The stupidest trial I’ve ever seen in my whole life,” she proclaimed. In the Queen of Heart’s world, the verdict is given before the evidence goes to the quite-partial jury, only seeking to keep their own heads. The audience alone saw that the Knave, played slyly by Zane Holloway, stole those tarts, and they chuckled as he took a bite of a heart-tart during curtain call.

Chessie, appearing in various locations, a true wonderland watch-cat, reminded his friend Alice “Think for yourself.” When she did, she saw the crazy Wonderland characters as imaginary and suddenly, a big puff of wind blew them from the stage like the fluttering of cards in a game of 52-pick-up. Alice found her way home in time for her party, having been on stage, interacting with all the characters, throughout the performance.

The Queen’s Heart Children and the Flower Children were costumed just right in their front and back playing cards, their flower head dresses and flower pots. Rayne Owens, Remi Willhite, Wyatt Woods, Isabella Woods, Courtlynn Lynn, Kaylin Carter, Adrianna Jackson, Emma King, and Camryn Snow were perfect in their parts, swinging and swaying and giggling in the breeze. The cute gardener was played by Owen Cox. Dances were coordinated by Abby Baker.

Sponsored by Rector Sonic, Cue the Applause, and the Greene County Fine Arts Council and produced by special arrangement with the Dramatic Publishing Company of Woodstock, Illinois, Alice in Wonderland was enhanced by special music written, arranged, and orchestrated for this production by local musician Kenneth Smith.

The behind-the-scenes production staff included all the cast and parents as well as stage designers and builders, costumers, and make-up artists - Caleb Higgins, Lauria Baker, Kailyn Conley, Jamie Woods. Greydon Boyster helped with scenery, props and scene-by-scene staging as Stage Manager. David Romine and Andrew Romine worked expertly with lights and sound. Caleb Riddle, Perry Baker, Mike Lynn, Tom Willhite, Teresa Goldinger, and Jacob Lynn worked hard on the ingenious and gorgeous set. Both Jane Gatewood and Quinton Mauldin added promotion for the event on multiple social media platforms, in newspaper coverage, and with new websites.

Audience members could be heard commenting upon exit, “Hats off to Clay County Arts Council. Great job, all around.” Reviving the community theater portion of the mission of the council has not come easy, remarked a council member. “We had Quinton, Abby, Caleb Higgins, Kenny Smith, Caleb Riddle, and several other young actors and artists step forward and contribute their ideas and energy to the mission,” said Gail Burns, Clay County Arts Council chair. “With the help of Greene County Fine Arts Council, as in the previous play A Window for Murder, the production appeared with expert scope, their help with costumes and staging was invaluable,” she concluded.

“A special thanks to Linda Robinson for helping with tickets and the CCAC treasury and for being at the Community Center for our rehearsals,” said Mauldin. One of the flower children, speaking to Mauldin, summed it up in adding, “I’ll miss you. I want to do this again.”

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