On April 1, North Polk High School students came together to put on a one-of-a-kind, never-before-seen production of “Alice in Wonderland.” Struggling to find a script that would allow North Polk High School language arts teacher and theater director Susan Vernon to cast as many students as possible while remaining appropriate for the high school age group, Vernon decided to showcase the students’ talents by rewriting a play of their own.
“By choosing something that was public domain, we were able to do it and rewrite it royalty-free, allowing us to save funds that could be put into other more creative and technical elements of the show. We’ve taken the book and reworked it into script form, pulling a little bit from “Alice Through the Looking Glass.” It’s a version of Alice in Wonderland like no one has seen before because it’s ours. It’s kind of a hybrid of the book from my imagination and the imagination of the students. I’m really excited about that,” Vernon said.
Prior to the beginning of rehearsals, North Polk High School students of all different age groups and backgrounds auditioned for their favorite roles in the play. This audition process consisted of a prepared monologue and a cold read from the play’s script. While opportunities for being on stage can be limited, Vernon worked hard to try and cast all the students who audition.
“If a young person takes the initiative to put themselves out there and prepares a monologue, then I really try to get them a spot on the stage,” Vernon said.
And, whether they had been seasoned theater performers or newcomers to the stage, the North Polk students were genuinely excited for the experience to perform in a play with as much creativity as Alice in Wonderland.
“Alice in Wonderland is my favorite movie. Me and my mom love it. And, the Cheshire Cat is my favorite character,” North Polk Sophomore Amber Reed said.
“I like the strangeness of this play and how out of the box we can get. When there’s an ocean, we are waving a piece of fabric. And, I like the idea of the revolving stage,” North Polk Senior Ian Triplett added.
However, the originality of the script and special talents of the students were not all that made this particular play unique. In addition to the creativity that went into writing and performing the script, it was the students behind the scenes that helped make the production all flow together.
“You’ll see 40 or so kids on stage. But what you don’t see is how many kids are working behind the scenes to make this show happen,” Vernon said.
For example, while some of the costumes were rented from a theater company in Ames, most of the characters’ attire was developed from imaginations of fellow students. With the help of items from the Salvation Army, Goodwill and other thrift shops, approximately 15 students worked to piece together one-of-a-kind, handmade costumes.
“I like that the play is very unique. It was definitely a challenge but it was worth it,” North Polk High School senior and costume designer Rebecca Rimathe said.
“It was kind of a love/hate relationship. All the characters are so vibrant in colors and with so many varieties. But once we got it done, it was fun to see them all up there on stage,” North Polk High School senior and costume designer Maggie Potter added.
On the other hand, one of the difficulties is portraying the shrinking and growing effect of Alice herself. In order to better incorporate this, students, along with school personnel, worked together to build a giant motorized turntable that would ultimately act as a revolving stage.
“We have a lot of really competent people here and we are really excited to try something not many around here are trying. It was an exciting opportunity for our kids to get to do something that is incorporated in professional theater and not so often done in high school,” Vernon said.
All in all, whether it was the entertaining story line, the immense creativity, or the technicality of the special features, the North Polk High School Alice in Wonderland play was sure to have something for everyone to enjoy.