“Twas brillig and the slithy toves / Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: / All mimsy were the borogoves, / And the mome raths outgrabe.”
Though these poetic lines may sound a bit garbled in their sense, they were written by the clever and well-known author, Lewis Carroll, as a part of his nonsense poem “Jabberwocky.” He is best known for his novel Alice in Wonderland which features the aforementioned creature, the Jabberwock.
Carroll’s poem is 28 lines and seven stanzas depicting imaginary creatures similar to the Jabberwock like bandersnatches, borogoves and mome raths in a story about a boy who goes hunting for a fierce dragon and slays it. This narrative poem was selected by theatre professor, Ethan Koerner, who adapted and directed the poem for this year’s children’s play.
“It is a wonderfully strange poem with a lot of potential for imagination.” said Koerner. “I had been reading it to my daughter as a bedtime story for a few years, and really wanted to take a try at figuring out what all the strange little creatures might look like.”
After its showcase in November 2020, Jabberwocky was selected to be one of twelve plays to take part in the Region Five Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) held Jan. 16 to 24. With its selection, it is also among the plays being considered for the national KCACTF in April.
KCACTF features undergraduate and graduate theater programs from six Midwestern states totalling over 600 colleges and universities that are involved in the selection pool. KCACTF is dedicated to the improvement of collegiate theater in the United States.
Normally, the festival would be held in person with workshops, showcases and individual critiques for students with entered pieces or projects. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, KCACTF will be held virtually with free admission for anyone who would like to attend. The shows that were selected will still be featured through the online platform and students with individual projects will be able to ZOOM one-on-one with theater professionals.
Jabberwocky is distinctive in its presentation. The original production was not held in one staged zone; but rather, the entire theater building was the stage.
“This play was able to use the theatre building in a way that we never thought about before,” said Angela Wintering, one of the nine cast actors.
The original idea had the play set in the Allen Blackbox Theatre. It was adapted for safety regulations and state guidelines for the pandemic. The result used various nooks and crannies in the building to hide, surprise or hold the audience while they went on a walking tour of stations set up to imitate how a bedtime story might be told.
Furthermore, the play’s characters consisted entirely of puppets mostly made from pizza boxes and craft wire. It featured shaw puppetry, tabletop puppetry and even motion tracking. Some of the puppets were able to be recorded beforehand and projected at their station while others were performed live by the cast.
“One thing I learned from this show is how challenging but rewarding it is to be flexible,” said Rebekah Stoscher, cast member. Sometimes just a small adjustment to a shadow puppet or the mechanisms controlling it made it better and easier to use.”
To showcase the production at the online KCACTF, Jabberwocky was filmed during its opening weekend. Two films were created: one that incorporates all the interactive technology created and the other following a group of children experiencing the play. Both will be available for festival attendees to view.
“It was an amazing experience and an incredibly collaborative process,”said Koerner. “Our whole department really had a hand in making the show what it became.”