Two very different local theater companies are launching two projects in the next two weeks. Both companies appear to be on the same surreal wavelength as they conjure different virtual productions of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.”
The Theatre Mine, Silverton’s heir to the city’s long-standing A Theatre Group, has revised its readers theater format and will stream online this weekend. The Mollie Virtual New Works Festival honors Mollie Mook-Fiddler, who died in 2017. It is in her memory that friends and colleagues have created a summer festival in her name.
“We thought we were going to be dark this season,” Gigi Benson, president of TTM said in a recent interview. “But we’ve rallied to take the challenge and go virtual We have a lineup of five plays in three days.”
Visit TTM’s website, www.thetheatremine.org, to learn specifics. This year, everything will be available via Facebook.
“Our lineup includes Mollie’s original adaptation of ‘Alice in Wonderland,’” Benson said. “TTM ensemble member Delena Britnell found her original script, and she will be directing this time instead of acting.”
Mook-Fiddler’s adaptation, performed in 2017 at San Juan College where she was director of the theater program, will be read at 3 p.m. Mountain Time Sunday. A large cast includes Benson plus out-of-state actors and local luminaries, such as Joy Kilpatrick, Jason Lythgoe, Ben Mattson and others.
The other 2020 works include a double-header Friday evening at 6 p.m.: “To the Hen,” by Daniel Sullivan and “The Serendipity of Flowers,” by Christin Eve Cato.
At 6 p.m. Saturday, Rosanna Staffa’s “The Falcon” will be read and streamed live.
After Sunday’s matinee performance of “Alice,” the final offering can be viewed at 6 p.m.: “The Deadly Belles,” by Peter Gil-Sheridan.
“Our artistic director, Matthew Vire has been wrangling writers and directors and actors to make this happen in one week,” Benson said. “He’s also handling the virtual connection utilizing Zoom/YouTube platforms to ensure our live event is as user friendly as possible. “
HHHMerely Players director and co-founder Mona Wood Patterson is also in the throes of producing the company’s first virtual production: “ZOOM ALICE: A Wonderland Adventure for a Topsy Turvy World.” It’s scheduled for June 12.
“The genesis of this project came about a week ago when I realized in a profound way that theaters won’t be opening any time soon,” she said. “There is no longer a normal. We can wait to go back to an uncertain ‘normal,’ or we can work with what is. We want to make theater in whatever form is available to us. We all need stories that reflect life.”
Wood-Patterson said she wanted stories to reflect the situation today, and that’s how her “Alice in Wonderland” adaptation came about.
“Alice is thrust down a rabbit hole into a world where she must question who she is and where there are no familiar rules,” she said. “Nothing makes sense; there is no normal; all of the rules have changed; everything seems surreal. What could possibly be more applicable to the pandemic world we live in than that?”
The adaptation rapidly took shape, “a virtual performance for COVID times,” Wood-Patterson said. “My next step was to get some actors. We ended up with a cast of 38 fantastical characters and a company from four time zones.”
Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.