FREEPORT — A handful of creative Freeport High School students, in collaboration with Carol and John Farrell and Ian Bannon of Figures of Speech Theater, have created an adaptation of the Lewis Carrol books “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass.”
The Farrells founded Figures of Speech Theater in 1982 highlighting acting with the use of puppets, shadows, masks, and music. They have toured all over the world, but remain committed to teaching and performing in schools throughout Maine.
Farrell said she and her husband enjoy working with the high school students in the Figures of Speech Teen Ensemble because Freeport is their “home base” and it gives the students the opportunity to work with different media.
The Teen Ensemble Project, “Reimagining Alice in Wonderland,” includes nearly 20 actors and students involved in the production.
“They act, they help with lighting, and all the other pieces of putting a production together,” she said. “The students work very hard.”
Ian Bannon is the director of the production, and worked with a few of the students during last year’s ensemble production of “Perseus the Gorgan Slayer.”
He said the nearly four-month process of creating the production introduces the students to more than just memorizing their lines. They craft the script, develop the props, design the masks, and learn how to animate puppets. Students also get help from featured artists who teach them these skills.
Bannon said Andrea Goodman taught students about voice projection, and Stoney Cook worked with the students on lighting and technical design. Beverly Mann showed them how to use masks in theater, and the Farrells taught the students about artistic interpretation through puppetry and costumes.
“These artists blow apart the students expectations of what is possible in theater,” Bannon said.
This is the second year junior Kate Breau will participate in a Figures of Speech Teen Ensemble. This year she will play Alice, a role she will share with puppets and voiceovers.
“When I was young, I was really very shy,” Breau said. “I know it sounds cliche, but acting has helped me come out of my bubble.”
Although she said she would like to become a math and science teacher, Breau said she would probably continue to act in the future because it is fun.
“This format is nice because it is not competitive, and there are no limitations on what you can do,” she said.
McKenzie Swift is a sophomore, and will play the White Rabbit, a role she said was initially challenging for her. Now that she is used to the part, she said she is having “a blast.”
Bannon said in casting the students, he tries to give them something difficult, something they can grow into. He said Swift has a talent for playing straightforward roles, but to cast her as a neurotic character like the White Rabbit was a challenge for her.
“We definitely pushed her, and she has come a long way,” he said.
Like Breau, Swift said acting allows her to express herself more openly.
“When I act, it’s easier for me to be in front of people,” Swift said. “It’s hard when it is just me as myself.”
Bannon said each student brings their own talent and interest to the performance. Sophomore Ian Leavitt, a student who played Perseus in last year’s play, learned how to play the accordion just for the “Alice” production. Other students play many parts and others help with lighting and the sets.
Audiences can look forward to a production that incorporates favorite characters such as the Cheshire Cat, the Caterpillar, the Carpenter and the Walrus, the Queen of Hearts, and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.
Tickets for the performance are $6 and will be sold at the door of the Freeport Performing Arts Center. The shows are this Friday and Saturday, April 10 and April 11, at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call Figures of Speech at 865-6355.