Proscenium Circus’ Alice in Wonderland
BY MEGHAN LAWSON '23
With COVID-19 regulations loosening in Massachusetts, theater programs have begun returning in-person to the stage; this included Acton-Boxborough Regional High School’s theater department Proscenium Circus (PC). New Director Margaret Maguire championed PC’s return, and this fall, the group kicked off its new season with the classic Alice in Wonderland. The play’s opening night was October 29, succeeded by five additional performances the next week.
Before the pandemic, PC performed Twice Charmed and Freaky Friday in-person in Fall 2019. The theater department then began its festival season with A Matter of Life and Death right before lockdown in March 2020. With COVID-19 restrictions preventing an in-person show last year, PC presented Warchester Academy: a virtual musical written by dedicated AB drama students. Although the traditional PC format calls for a fall musical, there was no singing in Alice in Wonderland. In an interview with The Spectrum, Director Maguire revealed that while many theaters are reopening, CDC guidelines consider any activity with singing to be high-risk. Singing and dancing was unfortunately not an option, but PC was still determined to return to the stage. Cast member Emma Early echoed this sentiment, reiterating how Alice in Wonderland created community unity. “I cannot think of a better cast and more wonderful show to get back into this art form with a renewed sense of play, enthusiasm, and imagination.” Though COVID-19 has continued to complicate performing arts’ return and while virtual musicals are entertaining, both the audience and the cast were eager to return to in-person theater.
Although millions of people across the world know the story of Alice in Wonderland, many are unfamiliar with the story’s origins. In 1865, Charles Dodgson, better known by his pen name Lewis Caroll, wrote Alice in Wonderland in London. While attending Oxford, Dodgson befriended the dean of the Christ Church College Henry George Lidell. One day, Charles took Lidell’s daughters out for a picnic and made up a story using the eldest daughter’s name, Alice, and thus the story was born.
Adapted from a story of fantasy and wonder, the play may have seemed to be a fairly standard show where the actors navigate Wonderland’s fantastical setting; however, PC’s version strayed a bit further away from the textbook interpretation of the show. Director Maguire explained that the show was in the style of devised theatre; “sometimes the children [were] furniture, fake walls, doors, and sometimes people in Wonderland watching things. It [was] meant to look like it [was] happening on the spot, even though it [was] obviously planned.” To accomplish this, the show used the stage as a playground, with the students acting as children playing together to tell the story. Cast member Eli Jarsky elaborated, “each time we rehearse a scene, there’s a high chance someone will try saying their line slightly differently or act a certain way they hadn’t before. Everyone constantly changes when we practice together, and this growth inspires me to work harder and improve my own choices.” The play’s style has allowed the actors to work together in new ways that enhance each other’s performances. Although PC’s Alice in Wonderland was not exactly what Charles Dodgson first envisioned, it captured the imagination and wonder that his story embodies. PC worked through adverse circumstances in a triumphant return that opens the door for many other exciting performances.