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Ambitious ‘Alice in Wonderland’ production hits the Colfax stage

High school tackles two Lewis Carroll books, ‘Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass’
By: Paul Cambra, Features Editor
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Election Day is behind us, but the madness goes on in Colfax. But this madness comes in the form of hatters and hares, of dodos and dormice, of caterpillars and cats.
That’s right, things are getting curiouser and curiouser at the Colfax Performing Arts Center as the first of eight performances of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There” kicked off last night.
While the title may be a mouthful, bear in mind it is a merger of two Lewis Carroll books, the former being the classic trip down the rabbit hole, while the latter features characters we all assumed were in the original (Tweedledum and Tweedledee and the Walrus and the Carpenter come to mind).
“Carroll was a really interesting guy,” said John Deaderick, the show’s director. “He was really into wordplay and puzzles. If you read ‘Looking Glass’ closely, you can follow the moves of an actual chess game.”
As opposed to “Wonderland,” where the King and Queen of Hearts come from a deck of cards.
But a look into Carroll’s career path (author, mathematician, clergyman, photographer, artist, librarian, logician) reveals there may be some method to the apparent madness.
“I think it’s a rollicking good time,” Deaderick said. “The moral to me is the power of the imagination; that it’s OK to let your imagination soar, to dream, to create an alternate place to where you are.”
For those involved in the production, creating an alternate place involved building a trapeze and a trap door, a functional mushroom and an eight-foot-tall tiger lily.
“It’s a wacky set,” said sophomore Kayla Rosebush, 15. “We watched a few different versions of ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ from the Disney cartoon to the Czechoslovakian movie. We took ideas from all of them for set design and colors.”
Besides the obvious challenges of bringing to life a well-known fantasy (remember, Alice gets bigger and smaller as she eats the mushroom), there is also the human element to deal with.
“You’ve got 42 young actors you have to keep engaged,” Deaderick said. “It’s always a challenge.”
But the depth of his talent pool was one of the reasons he green-lighted such an ambitious production. Senior Daniel Cassilagio, 17, plays the Mad Hatter.
“I have never concentrated so hard on a role,” Cassilagio said. “I am channeling all of my energy into one scene, 10 minutes tops. I have to really sell it in a short amount of time. It’s the only time I’m on so I want to make the most out of it.”
As for past “Hatters,” Cassilagio prefers Martin Short’s late-’90s take over Johnny Depp’s more recent turn.
“Too much Captain Jack Sparrow,” he said.
So pirate fans be warned, this Mad Hatter will not be spiking his tea with “Arrrrs.” But he will do his part to help you leave all the election madness behind you for a little of Lewis Carroll’s “literary nonsense.”
 “Have an open mind,” Cassilagio said. “There’s not much of a point to it, it’s not supposed to make sense. The main theme is that ‘we are all mad here.’”
OK, so maybe you won’t escape the politics altogether.