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Bruin Live reinvents “˜Alice’

By Courtney Powell

Jan. 24, 2008 9:01 p.m.

While UCLA has a prestigious theater program and several Shakespeare performance groups on campus, it can be hard for non-theater students who don’t revel in Shakespeare to find their theatrical niche. Bruin Live Theater Company aims to provide that dramatic outlet for students looking to think outside the box.

“We can do productions of student-written plays or productions written by students or completely produced by students, and it’s a really good opportunity for students who aren’t theater majors who still want to get involved,” said Bridget Ferris, a second-year art history student and Bruin Live’s stage manager.

Madeleine Kasson, a third-year psychology student, and Stacie Kinser, a third-year political science student, started Bruin Live Theater Company in fall 2006 as a way for non-theater students to get involved in theater at UCLA, choosing shows that students may not see elsewhere. This weekend, Bruin Live’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” will premiere in Northwest Auditorium. “Alice in Wonderland” is the group’s first production this year

“Stacie and I were trying to figure out our fall season last summer and we decided we wanted to do some children’s plays,” Kasson said. “And while we were looking for scripts, we came across this version of “˜Alice in Wonderland.’ And we thought that a two-man show would be a lot of fun, and we thought that the script really lent itself to creative interpretation.”

Kasson explained that a show requiring only two actors made production easier for the new company.

“It was originally planned as a fall quarter production but we didn’t have time to cast an entire show in seven weeks and then have it go up,” she said. “So doing a two-man show allowed us to skip the casting process and begin production the first week of the quarter.”

Kinser will play Alice and Chris Fleischman, a second-year undeclared student, will play Lewis Carroll, the author of the novel “Alice in Wonderland.” Fleischman was involved in Bruin Live’s previous productions. “Alice in Wonderland” is a classic story, but Bruin Live provides a new interpretation.

“It’s a children’s script, and then through our use of props and lighting and sound, we added this psychedelic element,” Kasson said. “We felt like “˜Alice in Wonderland’ is such a trip anyway and there are so many references to it in 1960s drug culture that we thought the correlation was a no-brainer.” For example, instead of beginning with Alice falling down the rabbit hole, the play begins with Lewis giving Alice LSD to get her to come to Wonderland.

While the show itself only has two actors, there is a backstage crew of 10 people. “What I found most rewarding was having a crew that was a lot larger than the cast. And we were really able to focus on and give a lot of attention to other aspects of the production, like the lighting and costumes,” Kasson said.

The costume changes are a huge part of the show; since the show only has two characters, Fleischman transforms into the other characters in the show. “It’s probably what you’d traditionally think of as Alice ““ the small pinafore dress, puffy sleeves, ribbon in my hair,” Kinser said of her Alice costume. “(And) what we tried to do is really contrast our characters through the crazy costume changes that (Fleischman) does.”

The addition of a sound track is also something Bruin Live used to make their production different.

“The sound track is composed of what you might call acid rock. It’s all songs from 1964 to ’71. And they were all part of the counterculture movement in that era,” Kasson said. “We added the songs ourselves to create that alternative feel.”

Whether audiences love the new interpretation or feel it’s tainting their favorite story, Kasson hopes that any age can appreciate this charming production.

“It’s definitely a new version of an old favorite, and it’s an interpretation you’ve never seen before,” she said. “I hope that the audience will walk away with a new interpretation of their childhood favorite so that their fairy tales can grow with them.”

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Courtney Powell
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