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Alice in Springs land

A new take on an old classic

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Select Colorado Springs Conservatory Students Perform in Alice, an original play by Ms. Jamie Richards of Ensemble Studio Theater in New York City. - SHANTELL AUTRY
  • Shantell Autry
  • Select Colorado Springs Conservatory Students Perform in Alice, an original play by Ms. Jamie Richards of Ensemble Studio Theater in New York City.

With its sophisticated wordplay, absurdist social commentary and enticing story, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland is an ageless classic. Now, New York City director Jamie Richards brings her experimental interactive theater piece Alice to Colorado Springs, featuring a cast of talented children from the Colorado Springs Conservatory.

Richards is a director at the Ensemble Studio Theater off-Broadway, which became renowned for its annual marathon one-act play series -- a month-long celebration of one-act plays by American playwrights that has featured esteemed prize winners Arthur Miller and David Mamet, to name just a couple.

Richards has directed Alice with adult actors before, but this adaptation promises to be exceptional. The CSC students are no strangers to contemporary performance -- they have proven their sophisticated talents many times in their contemporary opera performances. Richards herself is no stranger to Colorado Springs -- she has taught intensive summer scene study workshops at the CSC for the last eight years.

As a contemporary theatrical adaptation of the classic Lewis Carroll story, Alice is described as a "non-traditional, freewheeling romp through the tumultuous world of childhood that blows the dust off this Victorian classic." Whether or not this Victorian classic needs a good dusting, the unique staging and site-specific theatrical experience are sure to put a new spin on the story -- it's supposed to take you down the rabbit hole along with the actors.

Many of the beloved poems from the book have been turned into songs, incorporating music composed by students in the digital music class at the CSC. Expect a hip-hop rendition of "Jabberwocky" and "You are old, Father William," as well as some other humorous and thought-provoking music.

Because the play requires audience participation and a unique stage and set, CSC director Linda Weise began looking for unconventional performance spaces without a proscenium stage (the traditional theater layout in which the players perform on a raised platform and the audience sits down below facing forward). At around the same time, the CSC was granted a generous $25,000 matching grant by the Gill Foundation's Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado. The GLFC's converted garage in their new building downtown proved to be an ideal space for the production.

The choice of space has caused some controversy, though most CSC parents and students are grateful for the grant. Weise says she respects the local social climate, especially conservative parents, but she also believes that because of this money, these children will be able to not only participate in this remarkable experience with Ms. Richards, but that they will also "become aware of this wonderful foundation and all the tremendous work they do to support the arts in this community."

Moreover, she adds, "It's an opportunity to start an important dialogue about tolerance with the next generation."

"If you haven't seen this space," Weise said, referring to the newly renovated building on Costilla, "this would be a great time to both check it out and discover everything the kids do. Each performance brings them to the brink of discovering what they're capable of doing. They're just phenomenal."

capsule

Alice by Jamie Richards

Performed by students of the Colorado Springs Conservatory

Saturday, March 13 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Sunday, March 14 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado, 315 E. Costilla, garage building

Free and open to the public

577-4556

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