Don Tyson School of Innovation presents all-new ‘Alice in Wonderland’

<br>Don Tyson School of Innovation presents all-new ‘Alice in Wonderland’

Not every high school theater program has what the Don Tyson School of Innovation in Springdale does — its own resident playwright. Drama teacher Kevin Cohea has a master of fine arts in playwriting from the University of Arkansas and, as he modestly puts it, has written many plays in his day.

“I’m finding those playwriting skills come in handy in teaching my students to tell their own stories,” he says. “My focus for this program, as a school of innovation, is to be innovative and do new work created by and for the students.”

“Alice in Wonderland,” on stage Feb. 23-25, is Cohea’s original adaptation of the classic, a story selected by the students and inspired by Cohea’s 4-year-old son, Raistlin, whose imagination keeps his father on his toes.

“We fight monsters and dragons and ninjas, and he creates this entire world for us to do battle in,” he says. “That’s all we do in theater. We create worlds in which to tell stories. It’s in the human condition. It’s what we’ve always done. Even for my 4-year-old.”

The story of Alice’s wacky adventures suits the world we’re living in, Cohea says.

“There’s a lot of silliness happening in the world right now — adults acting in ways even the kids know are silly. We have to meet that silly with more silly.”

Cohea’s “Alice in Wonderland” might not be entirely what audiences expect.

“When most people think of ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ they think of the Walt Disney version,” he admits. “Our version isn’t a musical and adapts not only Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,’ but also its sequel-of-sorts, ‘Through the Looking-glass’ into one story. I’m pretty thorough with including most of the moments and trying to stay as close to the source material as we can (although there are some alterations made).”

It is, he says, “a story about being a child and the world from the point of view of a child. We, as adults, tend to forget that it’s OK to be confused. Not everything makes sense, and that’s OK. Some things really are just nonsense. After all, they say that imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality. This play is a way to remind ourselves that the world doesn’t have to be as dark as we think it may be.”

Sophomore Tori Dolan plays Alice in her first role since she was a flying monkey in “The Wizard of Oz” in fifth grade.

“It’s actually kind of funny how I got cast,” she says. “I originally auditioned to play a smaller role, which was the Cheshire Cat. About a week after auditions, my debate coach, who I’m very close with, pulled me aside and said there was a ‘callback’ for Alice auditions. Turns out, there was no ‘callback,’ and I spent weeks trying to figure out when it was or if I made it when in reality it was my debate coach messing with me to see if I would like the role!”

Alice, she says, is not only much younger, of course, but “she’s also a very bubbly person, and that is not a lot like me at all.”

“What I do think we have in common is our sassiness,” Dolan says. “Throughout the show, she’ll sometimes give off these little one-liners about how jokes are bad, and even clapping back at the queen sometimes, [and] that is totally something I would do, so it’s cool to see a little bit of myself come through.”

Dolan says it took students “months to get this thing together,” so she hopes audiences will “appreciate how much work actually goes into producing a bigger show like this.”

Cohea says the important part is “kids need a creative, expressive outlet.”

“Theater allows them to throw out all that pent-up creativity and create something with others when they may not know how to create that outlet for themselves,” he says. “There’s a certain level of trust and love that it takes to pour your soul into creating art. And the kids gain that trust working with each other so closely.”


‘Alice In Wonderland’

WHEN — 6:30 p.m. Feb. 23-25

WHERE — Pat Ellison Performing Arts Center at the Don Tyson School of Innovation, 2667 Hylton Road in Springdale

COST — $10, available at the door with payment in cash or by check

INFO — Email

Categories: Family Friendly