BY NAIEKA RAJ '19
Project:Theatre’s production of Alice Threw the Looking Glass, written by John Walch, merges Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with the famous grammar manual The Elements of Style. The central themes of this story, as described by the character EB White, are “learning to find [one’s] voice” and developing ways to deal with one’s “inner critic.” After failing her English paper, Alice travels to a magical land called Effingham, and acquires the unique skills necessary for academic writing.
Director Alyx Burns ’17 hoped the light humor and universal themes would “mitigate some of the midterm stress” and that the comedy was “perfectly situated.”
Laura Perry ’20 found the play was so entertaining that she “had to hold back from laughing aloud constantly.” Set in a classroom to create a context-appropriate Wonderland, the performance featured personification of literary devices such as Affect and Effect in place of Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
Katie Armstrong ’19 said “these elements made [her] reflect on [her] own grammar and writing style.” She went on to say that though the puns and one liners kept her amused, the fast-paced dialogue was at times “confusing to follow.”
Burns described the process of directing and working with a predominantly first-year cast on their first production as “special” and “different from previous years.” In doing so, he significantly contributed to the first-year experience by shaping the inceptive attitudes of students towards theatre at Mount Holyoke College.
Mathilda Scott ’20 said that she was excited to see her “friends as part of the show.”
Moreover, according to prop master, Sharunya Shailesh ’19, the experience of working backstage kept her on her toes while the environment during rehearsals provided her with some “much-needed stress relief.” She plans on working with Project:Theater in the future.
Within the hallucinatory world of Effingham and all its characters, concepts of how to effectively teach grammatical structures and writing techniques are conveyed through the process of self-discovery. Professors from the English department were among the audience, applauding and nodding in approval throughout the performance.
Lila Oren-Dahan ’20 said that the show satisfied their “inner nerd”. Challenging popular educational practices, the protagonist Alice said the lines “learning to write from reading is like learning to cook by eating.”
Despite the various tips and grammatical rules to writing a good paper, the heart of the story conveyed a message of remaining honest and authentic to oneself because ultimately, as Alice learns, the only “bad writers are those that don’t even try.”