Alice in Pirateland
Thalian Hall, 310 Chestnut St. • (910) 632-2285
10/28 – 30, 11/3 – 5, 7:30 p.m. 10/30 – 31, 3 p.m. matinees
Tickets: $10 (only $7 on 11/3)
Journey Productions works tirelessly with local kids to spread the love of our theatre community and to showcase upcoming talent in innovative ways. Thanks to founders Cherri McKay and Zach Hanner, the fun gets a little more adventurous with every production—the latest being “Alice in Pirateland,” opening this weekend.
Hanner, a veteran thespian and playwright on our scene since 1993, cherishes his role within the arts community. “I found a group of people that were as passionate about the stage as I was,” he notes. “[Wilmington has] great performers of every size, shape, color and age, and the majority of them are super talented in more than just one aspect onstage.”
The hodgepodge of actors, young and younger, in Journey’s latest play run the gamut of quirky existence. From tribes of pirates, known as “Swashbucklers,” “Mariners,” “Furies” and “Amazons,” to a vicious Pirate Queen, to the Scrub Bunny (Caylan McKay), cousin to the March Hare, a Wharf Rat and twins named “Buck” and “Neer,” parallels to Alice’s original adventures in Wonderland will be obvious. The only traditional character consists of Alice herself, played by Lily Zukerman.
“She’s simply a wonder,” Hanner says of the young actress, pun intended. “She has so much energy and is so preternaturally mature onstage that she was our Alice the moment she walked in for the audition.”
The initiative to rewrite the classic Lewis Carroll story comes in part from Alice’s “built-in appeal,” according to Hanner. Described as “tough, strong-willed and very brave in the face of danger and confusion circumstance,” Hanner’s remake came easily, especially considering she’s a public domain character. “The great thing about the idea of Wonderland or Pirateland—or any other fantastical place—is that the environment can be as absurd or as bizarre as you choose,” the playwright notes. “That’s one of the things I enjoy most about doing shows with Journey Productions: I have carte blanche to do as I please and that often means going off on tangents that normally wouldn’t be advisable with a group of high-energy kids. In our case, it seems to work.”
Perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of Hanner’s work comes from the combination of ideas and talents he uses to devise his scripts. First, he devises the idea and brainstorms the plot. “Main characters and subgroups of characters get filled in as we progress,” he notes. The kids prompt him to create the dialogue based upon meeting each child. “I’m able to write their characters based on their personalities and their strengths,” he says. Thus, his “living scripts” garner immediate feedback, including a group dynamic to devise story arcs and dialogue. “I encourage our kids to come to me with any ideas they might have.”
The plot of “Alice in Pirateland” follows a similar pattern and feel of the originals. Alice encounters the Scrub Bunny after her friends fall down a rabbit hole into Pirateland. Against the bunny’s advice, Alice follows suit and jumps in to their rescue. Yet, they all end up in different parts of Pirateland and encounter a number of alluring people along the way. In order to make a safe return home, they have to find the Corsair’s Cup, “a magical chalice that grants the one that drinks from it one wish.” Of course, it’s located in a castle inhabited by the nasty queen.
The elements that come together to make the kingdom one of eminent fancy will delightftully and artistically come to life in the hands of Tamica Katzman, who has created set pieces and backdrops for the show. Plus, it will be Journey Productions’ first play at Thalian Hall.
“I love these Journey shows,” Hanner says, “because it gives me a chance to use all my various abilities in one venue. I write the shows, I do a large part of the sound design, I usually play music in the shows and I perform as a character as well [including Mad Bill Hansbrough in ‘Alice in Pirateland.’] But the most rewarding part is passing on my knowledge of the theater to these kids. I had great teachers growing up onstage, and I hope to be a source of inspiration for these young people as they progress into adulthood. Seeing my kids go on to work in film and television, as well as other theater pursuits, makes me really proud.”