Monday, September 26, 2016

Through The Looking Glass: Alice and Her Wonderland Adventure Opens in Jersey City

A young girl follows a White Rabbit into a dreamlike world were animals talk and eating mushrooms can change your size. When this realm’s tyrannical ruler accuses the rabbit of stealing tarts – for which the punishment is decapitation – the girl must stand up to injustice by using logic and virtue.

As you probably guessed, the world is wonderland and the heroine is Alice. On October 2, JCTC-KIDS and Puppetworks return to the Merseles Studios puppet theater with Alice in Wonderland, the timeless Lewis Carrol tale, which runs every Sunday at 1 pm through December 11.

Tickets: Child: $8 Advance or $11 At The Door / Adult: $9 Advance or $12 At The Door. School & Group sale discounts available.  Special private party booking prices available. Alice in Wonderland by Puppetworks runs October 2 to December 11. To purchase online tickets visit:

Merseles Studios is at 339 Newark Avenue, Jersey City 07302. 

Soon after the first Alice books appeared – they have never been out of print since their 19th century publication and are considered the “Harry Potter” of the Victorian era – this beloved children’s fantasy has remained in the public’s imagination. The story’s best-known versions range from the classic 1951 Walt Disney animated movie to the more off-beat, 2010 Tim Burton live-action film. The numerous retellings of Alice’s often bizarre yet ultimately triumphant odyssey all have their merits, but often surrealistic special effects overshadow the genuine wonder this imaginative tale was meant to inspire.

“This is a great story and we keep it about Alice,” said Michael Leach, Chief Puppeteer and Executive Director of Puppetworks. “The story of Alice that is in the original books can sometimes get lost in the movie versions because of too much over-indulgent symbolism. The Puppetworks story moves quickly and focuses on the plot of Alice – a smart, curious girl with a good heart who enters a world were everyone seems insane. She overcomes what is essentially madness incarnate by relying on her bravery and by using logic. This is a lesson all girls and boys can learn from.”

Since 1980, Puppetworks has been committed to preserving the tradition of live-theater presentations through the art of Marionettes. According to Leach, Alice in Wonderland is one of the strongest and most popular titles in the company’s repertoire of 15+ plays based on classic fairytales, folklore and children’s literature. Alice in Wonderland by Puppetworks is also part-musical, with lyrics based on the poems and rhymes in the original books. The actual script, adapted for the stage by Nicolas Coppola, even predates Puppetworks, whose roots go back to 1938 when its founding company, Suzari Marionettes began performing in the U.S. Coppola, a member of the original company, is the founder and Artistic Director of Puppetworks.

Alice in Wonderland by Puppetworks combines the two Alice Stories – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Alice Through the Looking Glass (1871) – into a concise, fast-pace yarn of a stranger in a very strange land. The strings-attached cast of well-known Wonderland residents include: the White Rabbit (of course); The Queen of Hearts, who rules this land and strikes fear in the hearts of her subjects with her famous decree: “Off With Their Heads!”; Mad Hatter (yes, there’s a puppet tea party); March Hare; the Caterpillar; Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum; the Knave of Hearts and the Cheshire Cat and his enigmatic grin. Alice herself both shrinks and enlarges on stage, depending on what she eats.

JCTC-KIDS, the children’s arm of Jersey City Theater Center (JCTC), provides professional theater and other arts programming to young people (Alice in Wonderland is recommended for ages 3-to-12). Thousands of children and their families have experienced traditional marionette puppetry and classical storytelling since JCTC-KIDS and Puppetworks brought this enduring art form to Jersey City two years ago. In addition, JCTC’s Art-4-All program subsidizes tickets – made possible by the generous support of Jersey City Businesses and other funders – for under-served children. Hundreds of families have experienced Puppetworks performances at Merseles Studios through this Art-4-All program.

Alice in Wonderland is the 5th JCTC-KIDS/Puppetworks production. The most recent show, Beauty & The Beast was the most successful yet for this collaboration: Most of the shows during its Spring 2016 run were sold out or near sell outs. “Beauty & The Beast had a strong finish,” said Leach. “We’ve built a growing Northern New Jersey audience at Merseles Studios. It’s nice that we’re opening Alice to such a strong demand from an enthusiastic following. Jersey City has become an amazing theater and arts destination in a relatively short time. It is very satisfying that traditional puppetry and children’s theater is part of that landscape.”

For Olga Levina, Artistic Director of JCTC, presenting Alice in Wonderland is a labor of love. “Both children and adults can relate to Alice in Wonderland,” she said. “The story of Alice is about adventure, overcoming fear and the discoveries you make along the way.”

Visit website:
Jersey City Theater Center Merseles Studios
339 Newark Avenue
Jersey City, NJ 07302
(201) 795-5386

photographs by Bang Chau

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