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Hampton/Shaler

Shaler Area thespians bringing 'Alice in Wonderland' to the stage

| Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, 3:06 p.m.
Anna Rosso performs as the Duchess.
Anna Rosso performs as the Duchess.
George Vassilev, as Gryphon, and Taryn Nasiadka, as Alice, dance during the Oct. 16 rehearsal for Shaler Area High School’s performance of “Alice in Wonderland.”
George Vassilev, as Gryphon, and Taryn Nasiadka, as Alice, dance during the Oct. 16 rehearsal for Shaler Area High School’s performance of “Alice in Wonderland.”
Shaler Area’s cast rehearses for “Alice in Wonderland” on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018.
Shaler Area’s cast rehearses for “Alice in Wonderland” on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018.
Zoe Babbit, as the Queen of Hearts, and Sonny DeMasi, as the King of Hearts, rehearse for “Alice in Wonderland.”
Zoe Babbit, as the Queen of Hearts, and Sonny DeMasi, as the King of Hearts, rehearse for “Alice in Wonderland.”
Elisa Gabriel is the Mock Turtle in Shaler Area’s upcoming production.
Elisa Gabriel is the Mock Turtle in Shaler Area’s upcoming production.
Bella James, as the Mad Hatter, rehearses Oct. 16 for Shaler Area’s presentation of “Alice in Wonderland.”
Bella James, as the Mad Hatter, rehearses Oct. 16 for Shaler Area’s presentation of “Alice in Wonderland.”
Taryn Nasiadka, as Alice, rehearses for Shaler Area’s presentation of “Alice in Wonderland” on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018.
Taryn Nasiadka, as Alice, rehearses for Shaler Area’s presentation of “Alice in Wonderland” on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018.

Approximately 20 Shaler Area High School stage crew members have transformed the school’s stage into a set fit for recess, complete with a full-size playground containing slides and climbing equipment.

The whimsical design will take audiences to a fantasyland during the school’s “Alice in Wonderland” performances slated for 7 p.m. Nov. 8 and 9 and 2 and 7 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Shaler Area High School auditorium.

Co-director Kristen Susany said 36 cast members will perform Brainerd Duffield’s zany adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic about a young girl named Alice who follows the White Rabbit down a hole into a world filled with unusual characters and adventures.

Student director Joseph Franz, 17, said the play more closely resembles the 1951 Disney animated film than the darker 2010 Tim Burton-directed one.

Franz, a senior from Shaler, describes the show as nonsensical.

“It’s weird. It’s quirky, but I like weird, so it’s interesting.”

Senior Taryn Nasiadka said she will evoke a “sweet and likable” Alice, rather than the “bratty” character found in some adaptations.

“I’m just trying my best because there are a lot of times when the characters are pushing me and not really helping me out at all and I’m trying to show that I’m frustrated but still not losing my temper,” said the 17-year-old Shaler resident.

Senior Natalie Yurasits, 18, of Reserve, plays the mouse who is “very easily offended by everything.”

“I have to be really loud, screaming. My throat hurts when I go home. I have to drink tea with honey in it and have cough drops,” she said, noting that she often imagines working on math homework — something she is not fond of — to channel her character’s motivation.

Franz said that the playground set, salvaged from the district’s buildings and grounds facility, is color-coded based on the areas each character may use. Cheshire Cat Fiona Loudon climbed nearly upside down on the apparatus during a recent rehearsal.

“All the light blue pieces of the playground are for the Cheshire Cat,” Franz said. “… The two slides are for Alice and the White Rabbit (played by junior Kelsey Marshall) because those are the entrance to Wonderland.”

Similarly, Alice will wear a nontraditional outfit — a white dress, black tights and black combat boots.

“I think it’s so cool that we’re straying from traditional ‘Alice in Wonderland’ because I think it makes it our own, and I don’t know, I think it makes it something new and exciting,” Nasiadka said. “I think it’s going to be fun.’’

Shaler Area is putting “a unique spin” on a family-friendly classic, Susany said.

“We really wanted to stretch the students’ imaginations and creativity; this show allows for not only thinking outside of the box, but also thinking above the box, below the box and well beyond the box,” she said of the choice to stage “Alice in Wonderland.”

Co-director Anne Loudon said the school’s English Honor Society will host a free tea party for kindergartners through third-graders featuring treats, games, crafts and a photo booth from 1 to 1:30 p.m. Nov. 10 before that day’s matinee performance.

Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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