Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, a contemporary adaptation by Dr. La Donna Forsgren
University of Oregon Theater Department (MFA thesis project), 2014
photo credit: A. Ogden

These designs were created for an original version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland written and directed by Dr. La Donna Forsgren for the University of Oregon. In Forsgren’s version of the play, two contemporary children re-tell the classic story in their own words, weaving references to Twitter, Facebook, Twilight, and The Hunger Games into Carroll’s well-known Victorian tale.

The re-telling presents an Alice who is a feisty tomboy and loves adventure, dreaming of a visit to the circus: thus Wonderland is a child’s playful rendition of classic circus tropes – strongmen, conjoined twins, the Bearded Lady, and many others. The Queen of Hearts is, of course, the dominating ringleader of group. In designing these carnival-inspired characters, it was very important for me to portray them with compassion and respect, ensuring that the humor was being derived from their physicality and personality, rather than from their appearance.

All aspects of the design for this play were mean to invoke a sense of wonderment and playfulness through deliberate use of color and scale, allowing the audience to experience the story from a child’s perspective. Inspired by children’s ability to take everyday objects and transform them into something completely unexpected, many of the costumes were created from found, unusual, or recycled materials. Because of the circus theme, as well as the need for this production to tour to rural locations, the costumes also served as key components in the physical comedy and performance of the actors, requiring extra durability and flexibility in design and construction. The visual aesthetic was inspired by a number sources, including the underground circus scene of the West Coast, Japanese street fashion, the Tank Girl comic book series, Victorian picture books, and American pop culture. The show consisted of over 36 costumes which were all assembled over a 4 week period. The show went on a month-long tour to rural Oregon schools in summer of 2014.

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