Calgary performers find pandemic parallels in new version of 'Alice in Wonderland'

WATCH ABOVE: With pandemic restrictions easing, many Calgary performers are really enjoying reconnecting with audiences. As Gil Tucker shows us, a new version of a classic story features some surprising connections with life amid COVID-19.

With some pandemic restrictions easing, many Calgary performers are really enjoying reconnecting with audiences.

And a new version of a classic story features some surprising connections with COVID-19.

Alberta Theatre Projects (ATP) is staging the world premiere production of In Wonderland, based on Lewis Carroll’s 1865 children’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

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The Calgary woman who wrote In Wonderland said the project has its roots in the spring of 2020.

“At the very beginning of the pandemic, when everybody had gone into lockdown, to try and establish some kind of normalcy in our house, we started reading books together as a family,” playwright Anna Cummer said.

Alice in Wonderland was one of the first books we took out and the kids loved it.”

Cummer said the story contains parallels with what people are experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s about learning and it’s about coping,” she said. “That’s what Alice does, in a world where the old rules don’t apply.”

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The director of In Wonderland said Carroll’s story still resonates with current audiences.

“We started to see that there were more parallels with the pandemic than we originally thought: heightened anxiety, bizarre dreams, the disorientation of time,” director Haysam Kadri said.

Sarah Roa, who plays Alice in the ATP production, said she has also been seeing parallels with the pandemic in the new version of the story.

“There’s one line in particular that I relate to a lot, and it’s, ‘I’ve never missed them quite as much as I do here,'” Roa said.

“That’s Alice talking about her family, and every time (I) say that line I tear up a little bit, because I think of my family back home and not having them here with me.”

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Roa said she hopes audiences will enjoy the return to live theatre as much as the cast and crew do.

“When we did our dress rehearsal the other day for a room full of children, I was like, ‘When’s the last time that they have been able to experience something like this, that isn’t just in front of a screen?'” she said.

In Wonderland runs from Nov. 23 to Dec. 26 in the Martha Cohen Theatre at Arts Commons in downtown Calgary.

“We’re really excited to bring audiences back to the theatre,” Kadri said.

“It’s escapism and it’s a chance for them to feel normal.”

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