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Students, technology bringing 'Alice in Wonderland' to life on Pine-Richland stage

| Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, 2:39 p.m.
Julianna Weis as Allice and Emily Jackson as the March Hare rehearse for Pine-Richland's 'Alice in Wonderland' on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017.
Louis Raggiunti l For the Tribune-Review
Julianna Weis as Allice and Emily Jackson as the March Hare rehearse for Pine-Richland's 'Alice in Wonderland' on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017.
Julianna Weis, Emily Jackson, Darius Schirato, Brandon Pierce and Seamus Daniello rehearse on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, for Pine-Richland's 'Alice in Wonderland.'
Louis Raggiunti l For the Tribune-Review
Julianna Weis, Emily Jackson, Darius Schirato, Brandon Pierce and Seamus Daniello rehearse on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, for Pine-Richland's 'Alice in Wonderland.'
Makeup artist Kiera Regan prepares Brandon Pierce as the Cheshire Cat during Pine-Richland's 'Alice in Wonderland' rehearsal on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017.
. Louis Raggiunti l For the Tribune-Review
Makeup artist Kiera Regan prepares Brandon Pierce as the Cheshire Cat during Pine-Richland's 'Alice in Wonderland' rehearsal on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017.
The Pine-Richland cast of 'Alice in Wonderland' poses for a picture before rehearsal on Tuesday, Oct. 31 , 2017.
Louis Raggiunti l For the Tribune-Review
The Pine-Richland cast of 'Alice in Wonderland' poses for a picture before rehearsal on Tuesday, Oct. 31 , 2017.
Seamus Daniello as the Mad Hatter in Pine-Richland's 'Alice in Wonderland' rehearsal on Tuesday, Oct. 31 , 2017.
Louis Raggiunti l For the Tribune-Review
Seamus Daniello as the Mad Hatter in Pine-Richland's 'Alice in Wonderland' rehearsal on Tuesday, Oct. 31 , 2017.

Members of the Pine-Richland High School International Thespian Society are preparing to transform the stage into a rich fantasyland for the fall production of “Alice in Wonderland” and for the first time, they'll be working with projection mapping to make the set come alive.

“I keep telling the kids this isn't your mom and dad's ‘Alice in Wonderland,' ” sponsor John Dolphin said.

Projection mapping allows multiple video images to be projected onto flat surfaces, so when Alice tumbles down the hole, for instance, it can look as it might in the movies with stars racing past as she leaves her world and enters Wonderland.

The idea of doing the production with the technology was one of the selling points of choosing the script for the fall play, which runs Nov. 16 to 18, Dolphin said.

He said he “stumbled across the Broadway series Downtown last year when they were doing ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' and they used LED lighting and projection mapping and it blew my mind. It was incredible what they were doing.”

To bring the technology to Pine-Richland required a great deal of work.

They first had to find someone to loan them the expensive projectors; then someone had to learn how to use them to create their sets. That job fell to student C.J. Kielly, who student production manager Aman Sohail said took it on with “zero knowledge.”

“He picked the software, learned it over the summer and started to explore,” Sohail said. “He'll come and give the director different ideas and the director will say yes or no. It's really coming together.”

The costumes will have a little twist as well, said Dolphin, who described the Mad Hatter as a cross between Alice Cooper and Slash from the Guns N' Roses heavy metal band.

“We're having fun with it,” he said. “There's the multimedia, there's the video images happening, there are still images happening, there are the actors and sound effects so it's almost like you don't know where to look because Wonderland is a topsy-turvy kind of place.”

Even with all the visuals and technology, “Alice in Wonderland” remains the tale of a girl who's growing up and encounters a host of characters who all teach her something she'll need in adulthood.

“She eventually gets to the point where she realizes she can leave Wonderland and grow up,” Dolphin said.

Outside of Dolphin's supervision, the students are running the show. Sohail, a senior, oversees a team of department heads that are in charge of directing, managing the house, the box office, marketing, fundraising, staying on budget and everything else that goes into the production.

About 70 to 80 students are involved, including Julianna Weis as Alice, Brandon Pierce as the Cheshire Cat, Seamus Daniello as the Mad Hatter and Charlotte Laubacher as the White Rabbit, as well as student director Reagan Goldberg, assistant production manager McKenna Exline and stage managers Anna Kepes, Victoria McCarthy and Monica Wentling.

“The students have been working hard on it since September and I've been working since January, along with some of the other kids who are working with me,” Sohail said. “All the work that goes into this is all put together by students. People should come and see the hard work and what students can do when they're given a chance.”

Karen Price is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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