News Column

Actress, director excited over Apple Hill's journey into 'Wonderland' [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA)]

July 30, 2013


William Glennon's adaptation of "Alice in Wonderland" takes a step back from Lewis Carroll's original classic tale of a young girl's magical journey to a fantasy world of whimsical characters.

The Apple Hill Playhouse version of the story begins with a group of actors onstage mulling over who might be the right person to play Alice, in somewhat of a play-within-a-play. The curtain opens, and there is Alexandra Swartz, who lands the leading role. As the fantasy takes off, the other actors fall into place -- and Alice falls down the rabbit hole.

During her journey, she meets a host of colorful characters, including The Hatter (Pat Beyer), White Rabbit (Grace Bender), King of Hearts (Rob Stull), Queen of Hearts (Rachel Painter) and Knave of Hearts (Anthony Harwich).

Swartz of Delmont, a junior vocal-performance and music-therapy major at Seton Hill University, Greensburg, says she is "really excited" about performing in the final children's theater production of the season at Apple Hill, under the direction of Katya Shaffer of Jeannette.

"I've worked with Katya before," Swartz says, referring to her work in the Delmont theater's production of "The Enchanted Sleeping Beauty," which Shaffer also directed.

Swartz says that "Alice is an iconic character, and it's such a fun story."

The director says Swartz was a perfect fit for Alice because of her gentle and sweet personality sparked "with a little dash of mischief."

"She brings Alice to life beautifully," Shaffer says.

As for her decision to direct the Apple Hill production, Shaffer didn't have to think twice about it.

"I have always been obsessed with Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in Wonderland' ever since I was a child," she says. "I have always felt a particular connection with Alice. I think everyone should take the time to shut out the world and turn to something that makes you happy, not because you have to, but just because you want to. When Apple Hill offered me the chance to direct this show, I couldn't refuse."

The cast of 16 is made up of a mix of children and adults, experienced actors and those new to the stage.

The playwright, the late William Glennon (1923-2002), studied theater history at the University of Pittsburgh and was a familiar face at Pittsburgh Playhouse, where he wrote and directed children's productions before relocating to Maine.

Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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