“Alice Through the Looking Glass,” directed by Chris Sackett, opens Feb. 11 at Southern Oregon University’s Center Square Theatre. Tara Watkins plays Alice. Sackett, Watkins and I met in the SOU Theatre Arts Department one afternoon to discuss the production of the new adaptation by SOU alumnus Craig Jessen.
EH: Is “Alice Through the Looking Glass” done in modern times?
CS: It’s done in “dream time.” Lewis Carroll, Charles Dodgson (his real name), was writing during Victoria’s time. We have roughly moved up the time of our real world to Edwardian, but once we get through the Looking Glass, it’s dream time. It’s not specific to a given time.
EH: What do you have in store for us visually?
CS: In Looking Glass world, we go through a variety of environments. We’re in the small space, it’s intimate, and Looking Glass space is going all the way to the walls. A basic conceit of the story is, “Let’s pretend. Let’s expand our horizons.” We are going to be doing some experimental approaches to establishing environment.
EH: What is Lewis Caroll saying in “Through the Looking Glass?”
TW: If you look at how children have been treated by elders in certain societies, they’re looked down upon and molded into what adults think they’re supposed to be. In “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” Charles Dodgson is saying that young people are not stupid. They can make up their own minds, and go through a unique transformation.
CS: It definitely is a right-of-passage-type play. In this case, Alice gets to go through an adventure where she’s faced with many paradoxes. At the end of this adventure, Alice has a better sense and a valid perception of who she is. She doesn’t need to fit into a mold that someone else prescribes. I am very much taken by “Through the Looking Glass” and the variety of images that Lewis Carroll uses to convey very clearly his opinion of what it is to be a grown-up and the folly of our adult relationships.
EH: What is the magic of the theater?
TW: I most strongly connect to theater when I make people laugh. I like being a part of that uplift where you can prove to people that the world is really a good place, even though bad stuff might be happening. There is light at the end of the tunnel and light within that tunnel that you can find along the way. It’s like telling the story of humanity, and a truism about humanity is: There is light everywhere; you just have to find it.
CS: It is the shared experience. In live theater, it is the immediacy. The only way to get it is to be there in real time, and the only way to get it back is to remember it. The scope of the audience impacts the group experience. Some shows will be such that it disappears in the gray matter, but with others, there will be significant moments that stay with some people for the rest of their lives. Those experiences will impact one’s perception of life as a whole.
As an artist within the medium, I try to create the moment (between the performer and the audience) that allows for the willing suspension of disbelief that indeed is seamless.
Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director living in Ashland. She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre and is a member of San Francisco's Magic Theatre. Reach her at email@example.com.