In the March 11 Sacramento Bee’s “In Drought plan, salmon may be moved by truck”, Matt Weiser writes that starting next month, millions of young California salmon could be migrating to the ocean in tanker trucks instead of swimming downstream in the Sacramento River.
The state’s recent drought has made the Sacramento River and its tributaries inhospitable for fish, and state and federal wildlife officials fear the rivers could become too shallow and warm to sustain salmon trying to migrate back to the ocean on their own. This shrunken habitat could deplete the available food supply for young fish, and make them easier prey for predators.
“The conditions may be so poor as to produce unacceptable levels of mortality for the out-migrating juveniles,” said Bob Clarke, fisheries program supervisor at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
As a result, state and federal fisheries devised a drought plan with several hatchery managers to launch a massive migration of millions of young salmon via tanker trucks from Red Bluff hatcheries to San Pablo Bay near Vallejo. There they would be placed into floating net pens for several weeks to adjust to new salinity and temperature conditions before finally being set free to swim the ocean on their own.
Reading this article from an animal activist and environmentalist point of view, the state’s new drought plan can be extremely detrimental on both accounts. As an activist I am opposed to fish hatcheries as it can cause serious psychological suffering to smolts being kept in intense confinement with thousands of others in very small nets, for a long period of time. Evidence taken from farmed fish show that they are more susceptible to diseases that they can spread to other wild fish, and in some cases the salmon will even become cannibals and prey on other wild fish. In a Peta for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) blog on Oct. 5, Heather Faraid Drennan denounce hatcheries as fish can often develop serious injuries as well.
“In such filthy conditions, they are also susceptible to parasites that can eat their faces down to the bone.” Drennan Writes.
State hatcheries have historically trucked fish, even in normal water levels, to protect them from pollution and water diversions. Recently, the state has begun to releasing hatchery-raised salmon into rivers instead of the ocean after new evidence surfaced showing trucked fish are more prone to ‘stray’ into the wrong river when they return to procreate and lay their eggs as adults. This harms the unique genetic traits of each rivers salmon species. Looking at this situation from an environmentalist point of view, this confinement system allows waste and water to flow in and out of the oceans and rivers in which they are temporarily located, causing some of the same problems factory farms cause on land; such as waste, pesticides, antibiotics, parasites and diseases which are magnified due to the immediate contamination of the surrounding ocean water. This waste kills fish and other marine life and runs the risk of contaminating our drinking water. Some of these hatchery-raised salmon are also genetically modified, which makes us wonder what happens why they are released and either compete with or interbreed with other wild populations.
Weiser’s article in the Sac Bee goes on to explain that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is adopting similar plans for hateries on the American, Feather and Mokelumne Rivers. Each produces several million young salmon every year.
I believe since fish are conscious, they have a right to be free from human use and exploitation. The best way to protect fish, and marine ecosystems is to go vegan.
Music legend Paul McCartney narrates PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals) new ‘Glass Walls’ video, which advocates that if the slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian. The video shows an inside look at how chickens, cows, pigs, and fish are all raised and killed in modern day slaughterhouses.
Animals raised for meat endure almost unimaginable suffering throughout their whole lives. McCartney explains that chickens and turkeys are arguably the most abused animals on the face of the planet. They are crowded by the tens of thousands into filthy sheds and forced to live and breathe in their own excrement. He goes on to state that chickens and turkeys “are selectively bred to grow so large so fast, that most of them become crippled under their own weight.”
The video also illustrates the routine cruelty factory workers inflict daily upon the animals. One scene shows one of the employees standing fully atop a struggling piglet. Paul McCartney explains that workers on slaughterhouses and mechanized farms are poorly paid and their work often goes unmonitored. Many investigations in chicken and turkey farms revealed shocking cruelty that goes beyond the standard abuses. One example showed a man squeezing and twisting a turkey’s neck viscously and stating “sometimes they’re ****ing hard to kill.”
The Egg industry is no different. The mother hens are crammed into tiny cages, called battery cages, where it is so packed that there is little room for them to even spread a single wing; and it is not uncommon to see chickens die from being trampled under such conditions. As babies, workers cut off the sensitive tips of their beaks with a hot blade to prevent them later from fighting- all without any anesthesia or painkillers. This causes chronic pain which studies have shown to last for more than a month. The video goes on to describe that living in these conditions makes their wings waste away and their feet lacerated and bruised from standing on wire cages for eighteen months before slaughter.
In natural conditions, chickens are very intelligent creatures with the ability reason in some instances that is greater than dogs and children. McCartney describes chickens as “very social animals with an elaborate pecking order and ranking system. Yet chickens used in the egg industry are confined their entire lives.”
McCartney also explains how cows never forget a face, a place, and have complex problem solving skills. Cambridge University Professor Donald Broom documented the fact that these gentle animals become excited and even jump into the air when they’ve discovered a solution to the problem.
Video Footage also shows that consumption of fish is the number one cause of food poisoning and the only significant means from which humans are exposed to mercury, a documented poison that causes a wide range of neurological problems.
As a result, “modern meat production is responsible for the recent outbreaks of mad cow disease, SARS, bird flu, and other diesels.” Animal products are also often contaminated by several bacteria such as campylobactor, salmonella and e coli. Becoming vegetarianism not only helps animals, your health, but also the environment. According to United Nations scientists, eating meat generates about 40% more green house gases that contribute to climate change, than all the world’s transportation systems combined! If we care about saving our planet, cutting meat out of our diet is one of the most important actions we can take.
Paul McCartney ends the video by stating that “it is only prejudice that allows anyone to think there is a difference between abusing a cat or abusing a chicken, or abusing a dog and abusing a pig. Suffering is suffering, now matter how you slice it.”
With this detailed information on several meat industries that are harmful to your health, the environment, and supports unamnious amounts of cruelty amoung animals, the decision is yours to go vegetarianism and make a difference.
Check out more issues regarding the slaughterhouse and how to go vegetarian at www.meat.org
What do we picture when we think of the circus? Beautiful tents with bright colors, hilarious clowns (maybe not so hilarious for some), the amazing acrobats and trapeze stunts, and of course to make the experience complete there has to be the exotic animals, and the ‘wonderful’ tricks they all perform. This article is for you to see the not-so-wonderful side of the circus: how exactly do the animals learn these fantastic tricks, how animals are captured and used for entertainment, and their overall life performing for audiences.
History of the Circus
The very first circus that was brought to America in 1793 by Englishman John Bill Ricketts, right after the country was founded. The circus during that time was something absolutely fantastical! An event that was truly spectacular; definitely a ‘must-see.’ Back in those days, the circus provided people with a first look at new and strange inventions and contraptions, exotic animals with their trainers from distant lands, fortune tellers and other curious exhibitions selling entertainment and danger, with bizarre and fascinating looking people and clowns drifting aimlessly across the fairgrounds.
Ricketts incorporated several of his acts from Phillip Ashley who started the first real circus in England. It was Ashley who created the idea of a round stage, and the traditional circus theme music. Ricketts’ stunts involved several famous daredevil aerobatics, such as riding on dangerous animals, and he was soon known as the Master-Rider with stunts like the Flying Mercury and Egyptian Pyramids that soon became his trademark.
Yet in 1979 Ricketts fell into financial ruin and his performing days came to an end, but not without leaving a lasting impression on American audiences everywhere. Modern-day circus’s such as Cirque de Soleil still perform several of Ricketts acts today.
The tricks animals are expected to perform at the circus today are all amazing, but amazing or not, it is unnatural and cruel. It is not natural for an elephant to sit on a chair, stand on their head, crawl, twirl, or mount on top of each other. Yet these are some of the most common tricks performed at several circuses. David Hancock, former director of the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, states
According to David Hancocks, former director of the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, “When [circuses] portray animals as freaks and curiosities, devoid of context or dignity, circuses are perpetuating outdated attitudes. Wild animals in the circus are reduced to mere caricatures of their kind, exhibited just for financial gain. In this way, they corrupt our children, promoting the notion that exploitation and degradation is acceptable, even brave or funny.”
Here is an inside look at exactly how animal handlers and trainers teach the animals how to perform these acts using tools such as whips, sticks, electric prods and bull-hooks.
The most common tool used in teaching animal’s tricks is the ankus, or bull-hook, which is a long rod designed to cause severe pain. At first glance an elephant’s skin may look very tough, but in truth it is as sensitive as a humans. The bull-hook is used to create fear and knowledge of pain if the animal refuses to cooperate, so they will perform their tricks accurately in front of the audience when the hook cannot be used. This tool bruises, punctures and tears at the animal’s skin very easily and very often. Former employees of the famous Barnum and Bailey’s Circus openly claim that they always have bags of topsoil handy so they can cover the animal’s wounds and cuts before showtime. The bull-hook is used even on the baby elephants when they first arrive, as you can see above.
Ringing Bros. may state that their “training methods are based on continual interaction with our animals, touch and words of praise and food rewards,” when in reality it is nothing of the sort. Video footage taken between 2001 and 2006 shows animal aggressively hooked, and elephants that had gone mad and yet are still forced to perform and travel to several different venues. Several employees of Ringling Bros. either quit or were fired from the circus due to their noncompliance with the training methods and describe regular beatings and abuse towards elephants, horses, camels and zebras.
Another false claim by Ringling Bros. is their attempt to save endangered Asian elephants by placing them in their circus, but records show that in 1990, of the approximately 66 elephants in their care, 57 were captured from the wild and at least 24 elephants have died since 1992. The health and behavioral problems of their elephant’s show that it would be impossible to rehabilitate them and get them ready to be released back into the wild; they would not be able to survive. Ringling has also been unsuccessful at breeding more elephants than it has imported and captured for their traveling show, and as a result, their elephants are dying at a faster rate than they are breeding.
Beside the routine cruelty methods, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports show that Ringling Bros. have been given several citations that greatly impact animal welfare. One example is in 2003 where they were fined three times for not providing adequate veterinary care to a disabled elephant, another elephant with a large swelling on its leg, and a camel with several bloody wounds.
In 2006 the circus troupe was cited again for causing physical harm, behavioral stress, trauma, improper handling of dangerous creatures, improper enclosure, and discomfort to two baby elephants who suffered abrasions and deep cuts when they ran amok in an arena in Puerto Rico. Ringling Bros. was also forced to pay a $20,000 fine towards the USDA for charges for failing to provide veterinary care to a sick baby elephant that shortly died after he was forced to perform.
Yet Ringling Bros. obstinately states “our staff are experts in their field,” when in actuality they continue to hire inexperienced people, some straight from homeless shelters and allow them to work around animals. Several of their employees have been known to have serious criminal backgrounds such as child predators, sex offenders, and violent criminals.
One example is Thomas Allen Riccio that worked as a clown ‘Spanky’ for Ringling Bros. and was charged with 10 accounts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor on May 25th, 2004. Officials reported finding 2,000 pictures on Riccio’s computer, which was kept in his room on the circus train, containing girls as young as five-years old engaging in sexual activities with adults. The complete list of citations and other problems several circuses have committed can be viewed here.
The living conditions for circus animals are no better. When not chained down, most elephants are reported to be confined in barns and small outdoor padlocks. Their facility in Williston, Florida, often referred to as their ‘animal retirement home,’ has several elephants exposed or infected with tuberculosis (TB). Two elephants at their breeding center in September of 2006 were also tested positive for TB, and three more were pulled off the road due to their exposure to the diseased elephants.
To end this article properly, I’ve submitted a video showing a few baby elephants born at Barnum and Bailey’s circus so you may see the neglect for yourself. Yes it IS a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) video, but don’t let the name scare you; it is not as notoriously graphic as their other footage of animal cruelty. Narrated by actress Kathy Najimi (Rat Race,Wedding Planner), she gives a detailed description of baby elephants raised in a typical circuses and how they were meant to live naturally in the wild.
Animal Friendly Circuses!
Web: les7doigtsdelamain.com Bindlestiff Family Cirkus
P.O. Box 1917
New York, NY 10009
3700 S. Four Mile Run
Arlington, VA 22206
Cirque San Jose
634 N. Eighth St. San Jose, CA 94112
621 S.W. First Ave.
Ocala, FL 34474
Mexican International Circus
C/o Xentel DM
609 14th St. N.W., Ste. 300
Calgary, Alberta T2N 2A1
Russian American Kids Circus
The Brad Simon Organization, Inc.
122 E. 57th St.
New York, NY 10022
Tel.: 212-980-5920, ext. 12
Art historian’s passion for teaching
Aisha Shah | Staff Writer | email@example.com
Once a lawyer, and now a doctor in art history, Kidrick talks of her love for the Italian Renaissance, teaching, and the challenges she had to overcome to get where she is today.
“My dad—love him to death—but he told me when I was about 18 that I should get a degree in computers because that was the only way I was ever going to make any money,” says Kidrick. “He was very supportive though.”
Kidrick explains that while growing up in Utah, her biggest motivation was her mother, who was also an artist and very influential in her life.
Yet despite her love for art, Kidrick originally received her diploma in law, as it was one of her more practical career decisions at that point in time. As the graduation date approached, Kidrick decided that being in law school was more enjoyable than living the life of a full-blown attorney.
“I didn’t ever pursue the law, I liked being in school,” says Kidrick. “[I] liked learning and researching [law], but it wasn’t for me.”
After law school, Kidrick received her master’s degree in art history at the University of Utah, and for five years ran her own university art gallery. However, Kidrick says her true calling was teaching, after having realized that she “was better at teaching than running an art gallery.”
“So I went back and finished [school] and got a Ph.D.,” says Kidrick.
Kidrick explains that she tells her students that they can’t fully understand art, until they first understand the culture that created it and how the people in that century might have understood it.
Kidrick’s process of analyzing artwork—whether it be a famous painting by Leonardo Da Vinci or a lecture on the alignment of the pyramids of Egypt—is first examining the content.
Then, “if I understand the subject, and the content and the meaning of that, I will try and figure out the technique and how it was done,” says Kidrick.
The great thing about studying and teaching art, Kidrick says, is piecing together the history and culture behind it.
According to Kidrick, notable artists such as Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci were enemies, doing whatever they could to promote their work, and secure the most fame and fortune.
“(They) absolutely hated each other, and would compete in any shape, way or form,” she says.
City College art professor Frank Zamora says his colleague has great insight as a person and is very persistent in the details of the things she teaches.
He said Kidrick will push her students for quality and excellence in their performance and will go out of her way to help them aspire to become successful.
“She’s really committed to what she is doing here as a teacher,” says Zamora. “I don’t think she likes mediocrity. She will stand up for anybody if she feels they’re right. I think that’s a good quality, that she stands up for what is right.”
Kidrick’s field of study, an area in art that she “naturally gravitates” toward, lies in Renaissance history and illuminated manuscripts. The works of Michelangelo are her favorite, along with other famous works that she enjoys, which “cover all the boundaries of time and space.”
“Today, we’re all about mass consumerism, conscious consumption, and people who compete with one another,” says Kidrick. “We learn that from the Renaissance. It is very contemporary, which is probably what I like about it.”
by: Aisha J. Shah, Random Lengths News Contributor
March 24 – April 7 , 2011
Baggage: The Dance of Love & Grief
While no two people mourn identically, one commonality of grief is the positive aspect of continuing life after the loss of a loved one, while still feeling their presence and influence.
A large number of people share this phenomenon, yet it is rarely mentioned. One of Louise Reichlin’s goals for her new dance piece Baggage, a four-part dance piece, is to encourage the audience to reflect on how their experience with death has changed their outlook and perceptions for better or for worse.
Louise Reichlin and Dancers brought Baggage to the Alva Showroom in San Pedro on March 20. This production features, “Mourning Light,” “Tap Dance Widow’s Club,” and “Remembrance,” featuring user-generated multimedia, plus a reconstructed revival of the 1981 theater piece, Woman Sleeping.” It explores the positive baggage we hold after the death of a loved one and our changing perception of life and death when the deceased is no longer corporal, but still present.
For dance director and choreographer, Reichlin, Baggage was a cathartic work that helped her come to terms with her own grief after her husband and business partner of 39 years, Alfred Desio died. While attending Alfred’s tribute concert in the Spring of 2005, hosted by his close friends and colleagues, Louise describes reflecting on the way they all had put together photos and videos of her husband
with his students, on vacation, and doing what he loved best: dancing. After that, she realized there are many ways in which people
mourn the loss of a loved one, some can be more positive than others, and wanted to share this idea with the rest of her community to let them know that they are not alone in their grief, and that they all share a ‘similar bond.’
“At the time, I didn’t know where the inspiration came from,” Reichlin said, “but now after almost 100 dances and the death of Alfred Desio… I understand the sources better. I see the world differently as I carry the spirit of his vitality with me. Knowing that many others share this with their own departed I think of this as “baggage.”
Reichlin began writing and choreographing Baggage about four years ago. Then she auditioning dancers to find the right ones who
could bring her creation to life.
“Woman Sleeping” was first performed in 1981 with Reichlin in the title role. It focuses on themes associated with death and how we manage to find the will to continue life while integrating the experience and emotions that remain. While writing the script, Reichlin said she ‘felt things,’ ‘expressed things’ and soon became a great part of Women Sleeping.
The revival, Reichlin describes was very ‘tremendous,’ about a great loss, and the dancers performed their parts brilliantly; their movements were very expressive the themes in the piece. Reichlin revised the “Women Sleeping” excerpt to include new multimedia, and incorporated several more women-instead of just one in the lead, changes that will be featured in the final of the production.
“Mourning Light” is the opening act in Baggage. Written between 1996 and 1998, this piece depicts themes associated with great loss and the out-of-body experience of having someone’s presence with you constantly. The centerpiece of the production is “Tap Dance Widows Club” featuring recorded meetings from Reichlin, Loretta Zerby and Katherine Hopkins-Nickolas; widows of the prominent dance-masters Jon Zerby and Fayard Nicolas. These three ladies’ hilarious conversations about moving forward, shared memories and photos and videos of their well-known husbands serve as the audio and media for the piece.
“Doing this project has me looking though photo albums I haven’t seen in a while,” Says Louise Reichlin. ““Tap Dance” is very contemporary and expresses bereavement, yet is also the happiest piece in the production.”
Reichlin said that creating Baggage with Loretta and Katherine not only greatly strengthened their friendship, but
the emotional intensity of the play as well.
“One of the first questions that we asked each other,” Reichlin says with a laugh “is how we met our husbands.”
The third act in Baggage is “Remembrance,” with a run-time of under 10 minutes. Reichlin describes this piece as very ’different,’ very ’metaphysical.’ The audio and multimedia was constructed by a user-generated campaign on Facebook in which users are encouraged to post their own photos and stories of the ones they loved and lost, share their perceptions of death, and how they have managed to integrate those experiences and emotions into their future. One story that was used, Reichlin said, was about a girl whose grandfather had died but still felt his presence, almost as if “his ghost still lingered in the house,” Said Reichlin.
“When someone you love passes it is a surreal feeling,” says Baggage dancer, Angela Todaro. “Many feel helpless; many feel that they are to blame. We are remembered of them at random times, somehow they still are present after their lives on this earth are over.”
Originally, ‘Remembrance’ was written and choreographed for another piece called ‘Urban and Tribal Dances’, which expressed grief
after the war in Vietnam.
“How do we incorporate continuing life with a loved one who is still present, but no longer corporal?” Baggage dancer Angela
Prendergast asks from the Remembrance Facebook page.
“This is one of the questions in this work… This piece will be formed of images and stories of others, as well as myself, who has discovered that death changes their perception of reality.”
Despite its release to the public, Louise says that Baggage is only two-thirds done and has plans for an extension which will be longer than its original 45 minute run-time, include more dancers, new multimedia for certain pieces, and possibly more dance scenes involving include children. When using kids in a dance piece like Baggage, Louise says, they unlock something in adults, it becomes very inspirational and moving.
Louise Reichlin’s company, Los Angeles Choreographers and Dancers, which regularly offers educational programs to schools in the Los Angeles School District teaching dance to students as young as 3 years old. Using her 30 years of experience, Reichlin blends modern to contemporary dancing techniques, with metaphysical imagery that draws movement and music from different cultures.
Since 1996, Reichlin has created works like ‘The Email Dance’, and ‘The Patchwork Girl of Oz’, which integrates innovative dance methods with narration. Sometime in May of 2011, Reichlin states how she would like to tour Baggage with her other two productions, ‘Better to Bite You With’, written for the younger audience that deals with dental hygiene, and ‘The Patchwork Girl of Oz’, to other states and possibly make it international; since Western culture is not the only society that experiences death, and must under-go
emotional and psychological reconstruction after a great loss.
The British panto style in “Alice in Wonderland” encourages audience-interaction either through clever scenes that require audience participation, or simply shouting out a command during key points of the play.
Nicholson’s “Alice in Wonderland” gives audience members a chance to view a new form of theater not widely practiced in the United States, all for the price of an admission ticket.
A little after 8 p.m. the auditorium lights dimmed down, fog poured out of an unseen chamber on stage and the show began with the most fabulous character —none other than the Dame herself.
The Dame—or Madame Loretta Fey played by Bradly Moates—was portrayed as a middle-aged man in drag, and costume director Nicole Sivell designed the Dame’s garb spectacularly well.
Dressed in a bright purple, polka-dot suit, bubble-gum pink hair with an enormously large flower perched on her head, the Dame started the show off by addressing the audience, and observed how they were gathered in the auditorium for the sake of a joke.
The Dame and the White Rabbit served as comic relief, delivering witty jokes and comical lines that caused the audience to crack up and shout rambunctious remarks for an encore.
Some scenes involved the Dame directly asking the audience for help against the tyranny of the Red Queen and her continuous threats to cut off the character’s heads. These requests sometimes involved the audience shouting out a particular line during key moment in the play, a warning or an activity where the Dame will ask for volunteers from the audience.
One skit that was particularly interesting to partake in came after the show’s 15-minute intermission. The activity here involved participation from everyone in the audience and happened when the Red Queen made her appearance on stage. The crowd was very rambunctious during interactive moments, and without giving away this pivotal scene, be warned that it’s something most will not have already experienced before in traditional American theater.
The production also depicted several familiar scenes such as Alice’s plunge down the rabbit hole and the tea party with the Mad Hatter. The play also introduced direction the audience to new characters such as the Nutcracker Prince and Clarida from Disney’s “Brave” that all tie easily into the plot.
Original characters such as the Mad Hatter, the Caterpillar, the Cheshire Cat and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are featured here with more of a urbanized and cartoonish
Nicholson’s Tweedle Dee and Dum are known in this production as ‘Froghead Long Horn’ and ‘Beevis Carpehead and might be more familiar to some as the notorious MTV cartoon couple, “Beevis and Butthead.”
One thing about the production that clearly stood out were the actor’s performances.
The cast mirrored the storylines’ satire, such as the Mad Hatter’s quirky trademark jump and jittery movements, and the Red Queen throwing pepper into her wailing baby’s face whilst screaming, “more pepper!”
Although the production is a satirical parody of the original “Alice in Wonderland,” the script and songs also had moments where they appeared a bit too childish and cheerful considering that the play supposedly takes place in a strange, dark, wonderland, not a cheerful and cartoonish Disneyland. However, several scenes were set up so that the backdrop and the lighting created a very bright and inviting environment.
Alice, played by Ashley Olson, performed her part exceedingly well, delivering her lines with much enthusiasm and conviction— unlike the original version of Alice who was usually depicted as quite reserved and cautious.
Alice explained this difference not far into the play, remarking to the Nutcracker Prince that the original Alice was “much more annoying and witchy.”
With a last cheerful farewell song delivered by the entire cast, “Alice in Wonderland: A British Panto” concluded brilliantly, and over-the-top as expected. This unique play is a production that no one should miss.
“Alice in Wonderland: A British Panto” runs until Dec. 16. Friday and Saturday showings start at 8 p.m. with on Saturday showing on Nov. 24 at 2 p.m. Sunday showings start at 2 p.m.
General admission is $15. Students, seniors, military, SARTA, ADA and children 6 and up are $12. Kids under 5 are free. Purchase tickets at the City Theater Box Office or at the City Theater website at citytheatre.net
‘Alice in Wonderland’ comes to PAC this fall
The classic tale of a 7-year-old girl who falls into a land of wonder is a story most children come to know and now City College students will get to revisit.
City College’s new Performing Arts Center will opens its doors to present its first theatrical production of the season Nov. 16 until Dec. 18 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. “Alice in Wonderland,” still in the early stages of production, must undergo tasks such as rehearsing for a new theater style and being fit for costumes.
“This is our very first show in our brand new remodeled theater,” says “Alice in Wonderland” costume director Nicole Sivell. “We’ve got this beautiful gigantic stage to fill and I think we’re going to endeavor to make things as big and over the top as we can.”
Lewis Carroll’s classic tale “Alice in Wonderland” will be the first performance to light up the PAC stage since its reconstruction. Theater arts professor and “Alice in Wonderland” director Luther Hanson brings Carroll’s beloved narrative to life in a manner “that [students] have never seen before,” he says.
“There will definitely be some familiar elements that people are expecting to see, but I think folks will be surprised by a few things as well,” says Sivell.
In the meantime, the play, which is still weeks away, has kept everyone involved in the production busy. Ashley Olson, a City College student that has been cast to play the part of Alice, says that she not only had to show up for one audition, but three.
“The first day we did cold readings, which is where they will just give you a scene and a character, and they say ‘read for this character,’” says Olson. “The first character I read for was a crying baby that did nothing other than cry.”
The following days after the first day of readings, Olson says she went back for dancing and singing auditions.
Once the task of casting was out of the way, Hanson and theater arts professor Christine Nicholson say they were finally ready to schedule their first rehearsal for Sept. 25. In the development of any theatrical play, rehearsals are always the most crucial stage; especially for a piece like “Alice in Wonderland”, where a great portion of the script is based off improv from the actors, says Hanson, which in turn allows them to develop and expand scenes before opening night.
“This is where the fun happens,” says Hanson. “We rehearse for about eight weeks, we do a lot of improv in rehearsal to develop scenes…we start off with the basic story of ‘Alice,’ get as much in there as we need to keep it together and then go on from that.”
The original script for the stage adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland,” written by Nicholson, will be performed using British pantomime, which is a traditional style of folk theater in the UK performed around the Christmas season.
The origins of British pantomime—also known as “panto”—dates all the way back to the Middle Ages, but the panto that exists today is predominately aimed at children with plots that are based on famous fairy tales or folk legends such as “Cinderella,” “Aladdin” and “Peter Pan.”
“It is a mix of a fractured fairytale, dance, music, circus acts and current songs with changed lyrics—one big goofy holiday extravaganza,” says Hanson. “It is fascinating for children and adults at the same time.”
After having seen 10 pantomime shows in Britain and Canada, Nicholson and Hanson say they realized that almost no one was practicing pantomime theater in the U.S., and as Hanson says they “decided to give it a try.”
“It’s a great entertainment for the holidays,” says Hanson. “It’s great for the whole family, it’s great for our students to learn a new form of [theater] and there’s a lot of opportunity for students in a show like this, especially this year in the big new space. We’re excited we get to make this really spectacular and colorful.”
Nicholson’s parody script uses all the elements of traditional pantomime without losing too much of Carroll’s original narrative of “Alice” at the same time, as the theme good versus evil with the hero emerging triumph is one of the basic fundamentals a pantomime play must include.
“Alice in Wonderland” will be City College’s first pantomime play, and to stick to the roots of panto as much as possible, Nicholson says she will be incorporating well-known British panto characters into her script that will serve as the comedy relief.
Carroll’s plot of Alice getting lost in Wonderland, meeting the Red Queen and others will be all present in Nicholson’s panto version of “Alice in Wonderland” along with other common pantomime customs such as the use of costumes, songs from modern day pop culture and music will be all combined into the final production of the play.
“It’s not your normal show,” Olson says. “People think that when you go to the theater you have to be quiet…no it’s very audience interactive and it really kind of forces the audience to just have fun, sit back and relax.”
Tickets are currently available for purchase online at CityTheater.com, as well as Ticketleap.com, for $15 and $13 for students and seniors. Children under 12 years of age are free.