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A ‘nonsensical’ journey: Upper school presents ‘Le Gallienne and Friebus’ Alice In Wonderland’

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  • Alice, played by Amelia Lewinson (‘25), is surrounded by duplicate Alices, portrayed by Ella Gray (‘24), Bryce Collis (‘25) and KJ McPherson (‘26), during her first glance into the other side of the looking glass. Director Lea Madda took a modern approach to the play, making it more relatable to the cast. “The freedom that I get to take with the character is really awesome and inspiring. We’re making Alice 16, and she’s more modern-day — like she’s wearing modern-day clothing,” Lewinson said. “It’s really great to take myself into Alice a lot; I think that the parallels can be fun to explore.”

    Photo credit: Sydney Tilles
  • The Mad Hatter, played by Remi Cannon (‘24), hosts a tea party with The Dormouse, The March Hare and Alice. Lewinson said she has always looked up to Cannon ever since starting Archer theater. “They have been incredibly inspiring. They have this energy when they walk into the rehearsal room that is just full out and honest and very open,” Lewinson said. “When I see [them] perform, it’s absolutely incredible. I see their full body, their full mind, full energy coming out. And I honestly believe that they inspire me to be the better version of myself.”

    Photo credit: Sydney Tilles
  • Cannon performs a line after getting upset with Alice during the tea party. The Mad Hatter then calmed down and joined the rest of the guests for the remainder of the scene. Stella Leland (‘26) played the knave and reflected on their favorite part of rehearsals. “What stands out a lot is always the first read-through of something. Whenever we do that at any production — some of us might have read this script beforehand — it’s the first time the show is seen with everyone,” Leland said. “Who they are, their characters and everything, and it’s the first time you’re like, ‘Oh, I can tell what’s going to happen now.’ It’s just a nice moment.”

    Photo credit: Sydney Tilles
  • In this scene in Act 1, the audience is introduced to the King and Queen of Hearts. Grace Whitney (‘25) played The King of Hearts, and Alexis David (‘24) played the Queen of Hearts. The scene provided context for the upcoming trial, where the King and Queen investigate a knave. Freshman Frankie Scott played the Duck and was also the understudy for the White Queen, played by Guinevere Hesse (‘24), and the Red Queen, played by Anaiya Asomugha (‘24). “Watching them both navigate through such big roles, especially since they are both seniors. It was really nice to [have] them to guide a path for me,” Scott said. “They showed a lot of grace towards me, which is sweet, and they didn’t have to do that. Having seniors as mentors, especially as a freshman, is helpful and important.”

    Photo credit: Sydney Tilles
  • Throughout the trial scene, the King of Hearts investigates a knave, Leland, who is charged with stealing tarts from the Queen of Hearts. Whitney spoke about her collaborative process with David throughout the production. “I really rely on Alexis a lot, and she’s someone who I’ve gotten the chance to collaborate with a ton over the course of this process,” Whitney said. “She’s kind of the central image as the Queen, and my character is very much focused — at least in the introduction — around her.”

    Photo credit: Sydney Tilles
  • Alice asks Tweedledee, played by Olivia Brook (‘27), and Tweedledum, played by Ella Gray (‘24), for directions. Instead of helping Alice, they attempted to woo her and broke into a rap and dance. “The Tweedles are actually like teenage boys in this one, which is really funny. They sing a little rap, which is my favorite part of the show — it’s absolutely hilarious. Then, also, I would say that there’s a lot of modern takes on lines,” Lewinson said. “A lot of the lines are more of a classic literature, but we’ve taken more of a common stance on them. For example, in a lot of my lines, I might be saying outdated language or speaking in more of a verse instead of a normal speaking way that we do now.”

    Photo credit: Sydney Tilles
  • In Act 2, the Two of Spades, played by Phoebe Gustafson (‘27), the Six of Clubs, played by McPherson and the Five of Hearts, played by Adella Travers (‘27), sing a spin-off of the British National Anthem, “God Save the Queen.” In the middle of the scene, the Queen walked in on them, and the cards ran away in fear.

    Photo credit: Sydney Tilles
  • The White and Red Queens throw Alice a party to crown her queen. This scene took place during the end of the second act before Alice was transported back to her normal bedroom. “You get to create a lot of interpretation because the original story is written without rhyme or reason. That’s kind of the purpose,” Whitney said. “That gives you, as a performer, I think, a lot of creative liberty to sort of work with your fellow actor to create this world out of what’s already been kind of drawn up for you. You have to utilize your creativity in a way that you don’t get to usually when everything’s just provided for you on a script.”

    Photo credit: Sydney Tilles
  • The characters watch Alice after she is transported back home. Whitney reflected on the production as a whole and the play’s messages. “I don’t know if there’s necessarily a lesson to it, but you’re supposed to be so immersed. You just have to see how she reacts to things as she’s going through these insane situations,” Whitney said. “She’s just taking it in strides, and she’s learning from it and growing from it, which is something that a lot of teenage girls can relate to — just sort of going through an insane world and having to adapt as you do.”

    Photo credit: Sydney Tilles
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Kooky. Eccentric. Wacky. These are all words cast members used to describe this year’s upper school play, “Le Gallienne and Friebus’ Alice In Wonderland,” a contemporary adaptation of  “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll.

The play follows 16-year-old Alice and her journey after taking a step through the looking glass. During Alice’s expedition full of bent rules and whimsical happenings, she encounters classic characters — including the Mad Hatter, White Rabbit and Cheshire Cat. While the reimagining largely stayed true to the original, it took a modern approach in which characters and scenes were adjusted to better fit the present world.

Assistant director Rachel Michiel (’25) provided notes to actors during rehearsals, organized crew members before performances, moved props on and off stage, blocked her own scene and fulfilled other tasks to assist with the play’s production. Michiel said the additional attributes and quirks to characters made them relatable to today’s world and audience.

“We’re doing [‘Alice in Wonderland’] in a modern sense of telling a 16-year-old girl’s story through girlhood with these really almost outdated words and language,” Michiel said. “To translate those [lines] into the story and emotions we’re trying to tell was really difficult, and so we would talk through each scene and be like, ‘Okay, how do we see this in the real world?’”

Auditions for the play began in mid-January, and rehearsals occurred Monday through Thursday every week until performances took place in the Blackbox theater March 15 and 16. Additionally, the cast held both a faculty show and play preview for upper school students March 14. Senior Sadie Long has been a part of Archer’s theater program since her freshman year and played the March Hare.

“Very kooky, kind of crazy and nonsensical would be the best way to describe a lot of my lines — they don’t make a lot of sense,” Long said. “No normal person would really be speaking in the way the March Hare speaks … but that’s kind of the fun of it is figuring out how to deliver the lines and parse out the meanings in the midst of all the nonsense.”

Junior Hayden Seid, who played the White Rabbit, joined Archer theater five years ago. She said the play’s supportive atmosphere and cast was a highlight of her Archer theater experience this year.

“Getting to work with incredible cast has been so fun. Every single show, we always have so much fun working together,” Seid said. “ [Archer theater’s] really given me a place of belonging. It’s very accepting no matter what and just a really great time with very supportive, lovely people.”

Long said, regardless of previous theater experience or background, every actor learns from one another, which is what makes Archer theater a special experience full of unity and love. Since this production was her last time performing on an Archer stage, Long said she felt both happy and sad prior to the performances.

“It’s definitely very bittersweet, but I wouldn’t change it. I’m so glad that I did Archer theater,” Long said. “I definitely think it allowed me to find my confidence and my voice as a person and as a performer. It’s been a great experience, and I’m really grateful for it. I’ll be sad to leave, but I know that I’ll continue those friendships and bonds.”

Seid said her favorite part of theater is exploring new perspectives and mindsets, trying on different characters and sharing stories with others. Prior to the performances, Seid said she was looking forward to presenting what the cast members have been working on over the past two months with others.

“I’m really excited,” Seid said. “We’ve worked really hard, and the best part is sharing it with the Archer community because everyone’s always really excited to see it, and we’re very eager to show people what we’ve been working on.”

Over the course of the production, Michiel said she focused on fostering a positive and fun environment where every cast member held creative freedom over their character.

“Because this is an upper school play, all the actors are so capable, so I think it should be more of a community-decision based environment,” Michiel said. “I believe in letting cast members have the space to find their own character, and how they want to fit into the show. I would then just provide notes on that. Another thing I found myself doing was connecting with actors individually and being like, ‘Hey, what do you think this scene means to you?’ or, ‘What does this line feel to you?’”

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About the Contributors
Zoe Gazzuolo, Culture Editor
Zoe Gazzuolo joined The Oracle as a staff reporter in 2022 and became the Culture Editor in 2023. She plays tennis and joined the Archer Varsity team her freshman year. In her free time, she loves hanging out with friends, baking and listening to music.
Sydney Tilles, Senior Reporter
Sydney Tilles joined the Oracle as a staff reporter in 2022 and became a senior reporter in 2023. She is on the Archer tennis team and dance company. She loves learning about current events, participating in service learning and activism. She has a passion for government, politics, and social justice.

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