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Play with original Michael Allen Harrison music marks return to stage after a long hiatus.

Theater-goers can tumble into the fantastical world of "Alice in Wonderland" at La Salle Prep's fall production scheduled for November.  COURTESY PHOTO: LA SALLE PREP - More than 50 students are working the Alice in Wonderland production set to open early November.COURTESY PHOTO: LA SALLE PREP - Drama teacher and director Michael Sheldon holds the wig of the Red Queen. The troupe has been working to create a visually stimulating production.

Drama teacher and director Michael Sheldon said much of his and his students' time has been spent on the costumes, especially the headpieces, which play an integral part of the imaginary world created by Lewis Carroll. The characters will be in Victorian garb, referencing the time in which Carroll wrote the famous novel.

The play was adapted by Eva Le Gallienne and Florida Friebus. 

Sheldon selected "Alice" as La Salle's first play since the pandemic broke out play so families could attend together.  

"I like the opportunity the story presents with a larger cast and the magical elements of Wonderland to visually create what we hope is impactful for audiences. Plus, I like that it's a show that works for families," Sheldon said. "People have been isolated for so long and this is an opportunity to go out into the community, but with their children, to start reconnecting again.

"It was a factor when deciding on what show, and we felt we could meet the community's needs, too. It just so happens through serendipity that I had a previous connection to pianist Michael Allen Harrison, who has agreed to compose all-original music for the production." COURTESY PHOTO: LA SALLE PREP - Students rehearse their lines as Michael Sheldon offers direction.

Harrison has created numerous original works on MP3s to be used during the times when he cannot be present to perform. He has worked with the actors vocally, and Sheldon called it a gift from Harrison, especially since it's the first production from La Salle's theater department in more than 18 months. 

With a cast of 24 and crew of 26, it's a large production, which affords opportunities for more students to participate. Sheldon said the actors are enjoying the multiple themes in "Alice." 

"For them, they are resonating with the idea of transformation," Sheldon said. "While it's not been my intention, a lot of them have talked about how Alice has a view of herself and the world she lives in. Alice is so naïve, and she comes out of Wonderland with almost a maturity and some wisdom.  

"The kids are noticing the parallels with COVID — there was life before and there is life now, and it's never going to be the way it was before, and we are trying to find a new way of being," he said. "That transformational aspect for Alice and her personal journey is reverberating with students."  

Sheldon, who is in his sixth year at La Salle, said that after a long hiatus, students are excited to be able to perform together and collaborate on a big production again.  

"The energy is higher now, not because kids somehow like it more than they did before, but there is a sense that something had been taken away from them. It feels different to them; they appreciate it more. We are not fully through COVID yet, and it could be taken away still," Sheldon said. "There's a level of joy they are bringing to the work that was not always apparent prior to COVID." 

Up next for La Salle's drama department is "All Together Now," an international collaborative event with 2,400 other high schools. It will be performed Nov. 17. The winter show in February is "Gifted," a student-directed production, followed by the spring musical, "Mama Mia."  

"It's a whole season of being joyful and bringing people back together and celebrating community," Sheldon said.  

 COURTESY PHOTO: LA SALLE PREP - As the play comes together, students are excited to perform for the first time in 18 months.

If you go

What: "Alice in Wonderland" 

When: 7 p.m. Nov. 5-7 and 12-13; 2 p.m. Nov. 14 

Where: 11999 S.E. Fuller Road, unincorporated Clackamas County near Milwaukie 

Cost: Adults $12; students $10 

Tickets: lspreptheater.org  


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