Morris Hills Goes to Wonderland


The auditorium is a well-known  place for school meetings, but many people do not know what goes on behind the red curtains. The stage is the domain of the Morris Hills Thespians. On the stage, the magic happens. This year, the play  “Alice in Wonderland” was not the Disney version that everyone knows. This play, based on Lewis Carroll’s novels, is being directed by Mr. Fahrer, Mrs. Calzone, Viviana Wadleigh, and Sybil Gonzalez. It stars Kathryn Donovan as Alice, Ryan Spada as Mr. Dodgson, and Robert McKnight as the White Rabbit.

“Alice in Wonderland” is the story of Alice, a young girl who takes a trip down a  rabbit hole and goes through a journey of self-discovery. It is a coming-of-age story full of childlike wonder and magic.

But how does the magic happen? Here is an insider’s look into how Morris Hills brought Wonderland to life.

The Passing of the Torch

Mrs. Lavin had been the director of many productions for a number of years, but because she is retiring soon, she decided to pass on the director’s position to Mr. Fahrer. This is his first time directing the fall play. About this new experience, he said, “It feels great to be directing the fall play. I am, as always, impressed by the sheer professionalism and dedication of the students. I look forward to continuing the incredibly accomplished program that Mrs. Lavin has created and fostered.”

Why “Alice in Wonderland?”

“Alice in Wonderland” was chosen by Mr. Fahrer because he, along with his colleagues and his teacher Terra Vandergaw from Ramapo College of New Jersey, wrote it. He describes the writing of the script as “an incredible theatre experience.”

The Process

At the beginning of the year, the auditions took place. Students performed monologues and scenes in front of the directors and other auditionees. Then, the directors chose certain people for callbacks. At the callbacks, auditionees read through scenes to allow the directors to make their final casting decisions.

Once the callbacks were done, the cast list was posted.After the cast was determined, the fun began.

Cast members started coming to rehearsal and were fully introduced to their characters.Throughout the next few months, the cast and crew came together to develop the show.

There are re multiple parts of the crew: paint crew, run crew, changers, makeup crew, light and sound crew, and construction crew. The crew hides in the shadows, yet makes the magic all the more wonderful.

The cast members must develop their characters. Performing is not just a matter of reading words off of a page. Instead, it is about understanding a character and analyzing him or her to create a more interesting show. In the words of Mr. Fahrer, “exploration of character is what makes theatre magical.”

The rehearsal period goes faster than one would believe. Before you know it, the night of the performance will be here.

What Makes the Magic?

In most plays, the stage towers above the audience as the actors perform in a seemingly unreachable world. The fall play, however, is known to twist this classic formula around with a format known as black-box theatre. This format is created by placing the audience on the stage along with the actors to make the experience more involved. “Alice” will do this by allowing the audience to interact with the performers and contribute to the show.

The set is built by the stage crew with the guidance of the directors. Sometimes a play may call for tall platforms or hidden doors, and the crew always pulls through with things like this. After the basic framework is done, the more artistic members of the crew shine with their painting skills. The set is painted to create a much more concrete setting and set the tone of the production as a whole.

The sound and light crew also assist in creating a tone for the production. Whether it’s music or sound effects, the sound director is always there to assist. Bryan Cadavos has been chosen once again as the Sound Technician and Music Composer for “Alice,” due to his outstanding work on past productions. The light crew consists of Monica Morris and Riley Predmore, who have both been working on productions for several years.

As the show draws ever closer, costumes and makeup are the final touches needed to create the magic. Viviana Wadleigh is the costume director who will work tirelessly to make the actors look truly amazing onstage. The makeup crew is led by Gaudy Navarro.

And, of course, where would a production be without stage managers? As the coordinators of the backstage operations, Emma Dollase and Anthony Volpe team up to lead the crew in the organization and creation of the productions.

A Word from Alice

Some may wonder what exactly it feels like to be in Wonderland. Kathryn Donovan was able to step into the shoes of Alice and experience Wonderland herself. When asked about the journey, she explained: “Getting to play someone else for a little while in a crazy world full of the impossible is an opportunity like no other.” She loved everything about being a part of a production, whether it was being with friends, wearing amazing costumes, or learning about herself.

Wonderland was brought to life through the dedication and perseverance of teachers, students, and even families. It was because of their care and enthusiasm that the auditorium can be filled with the magic of Alice’s journey for a few nights.