Walking into Caswell Hall, you see girls standing perfectly silent in a circle, using only hand signals and head gestures to dictate each other’s moves. A short 15 minutes later, the stillness of the room transforms into a seemingly raucous gathering of laughter and shouts.
“We will pull off crazy costumes off of a costume rack, which helps us get into a wacky character,” Sarah ’15 said.
Dressed in brightly colored tutus, vests and bizarre accessories, the girls do a series of exercises as a group to encourage self-confidence.
Directed by Drama instructor Gleason Bauer, the actors in the Middle School Play have been meeting every day after school since auditions on February 14, to prepare for their performances on May 12-14 Alice in Wonderland, by honing their acting skills, helping new students acclimate or just having fun.
For all of you travelers who might have recently returned from your own Wonderland, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, written by Lewis Carroll (né Charles Dodgson) in 1865, tells the story of a ten year-old Alice and her adventures in a place called Wonderland.
After falling down a rabbit hole, Alice meets score after score of foreign beasties and anthropomorphic characters. She faces trials in the form of literally drowning in her own tears, debating whether or not she is a weed with life-sized flowers, and escaping the dreaded Red Queen’s clutches.
Co-Director Patrice Quinn, a friend of Bauer’s, has been training the girls in acting techniques and performance clowning. But ‘clowning’ does not refer to a scary man with face paint.
“This form of clowning isn’t like what a birthday party clown does, it’s closer to what is seen in Cirque du Soleil. It’s what Charlie Chaplin and even the Three Stooges did. They were all clowns. It’s physical humor,” Bauer said.
Quinn is also helping the girls tailor the play to their strengths and interests.
“A very important approach is to let the girls know this is their play and their story. Let them interpret what the play means to them,” she said.
Along with clowning, Bauer and Quinn are teaching the actors techniques from Media dell’arte and the Spolin Games. Media dell’ Arte is a non-profit organization created by a group of artists and educators to help nurture talent and art throughout the world. The Spolin Games are a series of drills used to create a more intimate relationship between actors and the audience during a play.
Though they are really just beginning, many of the girls said they are happy with their work, as did their directors.
According to Quinn, the environment in rehearsal allows all of the girls to be bold and make choices about how they will proceed as they begin working on bigger scenes. All of the actors that I spoke with said that they are pleased with what they have come up with and are excited to see the final product.
“It’s a great experience to take a classic story and turn it into our own unique piece,” Emma ’14 said.