Down the Rabbit Hole with Rocio Urquia:

a glimpse behind the scenes of WOHS’s production of Alice in Wonderland

Violet Kohlenstein

This November, the West Orange High School Drama club took their audience for an illusive adventure down a rabbit hole. In a witty, humorous, and fast-paced production of Alice in Wonderland, the club brought the elements of Lewis Carrol’s classic to life on Nov. 18, 19, and 20. In an interview, Rocio Urquia, the Student Assistant Director and senior at WOHS, gives us a glimpse through the looking glass, sharing her experiences working on the play, what goes on behind the scenes, on stage, and even down the rabbit hole.

Urquia has always loved singing and performing; even though she plans to follow a career as a lawyer, she still feels connected to theater and performance. “I’ve loved singing since the first grade, mainly because of my favorite singer, Selena Gomez.” Urquia tells The Pioneer.

“Since I love singing I try to get involved as much as [I can]” 

 

Though she worked behind the scenes this year, Urquia expressed her passion for acting. The reason, something many can relate to. “I always loved acting… and what is most fascinating about [theater] to me is that you get to be someone else. Most of the time you have problems in your regular life and you get to be someone else on the stage and it’s really helpful because it is a distraction for your daily problems.” 

Currently, Urquia is a member of the Jubilee Choir and Glee Choir. She is also a very active member of the Drama club, as she not only worked as the Student Assistant Director for this production but she was also the light operator for the show. As Student Director, she was responsible for directing the actors alongside the teacher directors. Urquia explained the challenges of her job, speaking about how “the hardest part was actually being able to take charge, because it’s hard for people your age to actually listen to you. They automatically think ‘Oh I won’t get in trouble, she’s my age, she’ll understand.’” 

 

Alice in Wonderland focuses on how the adult world may look through an adolescent’s eyes, and represents how they tend to lead with a certain open-mindedness, yet they can be undermined by adults. Similar to how Alice felt (not taken as seriously as older, adult figures in her world), Urquia expands, “It’s hard to be a person in charge, you’ll feel like you’re being walked over…but in the end, they’ll respect you.”  On the other hand, she noted how grateful she was to work on the show, “my favorite moment was getting close with the people. I got to know a bunch of them and make new friends.” Urquia was able to develop her leadership skills by being able to “put [her] input on how [she] thinks it should be….”

 

“ If [she]  didn’t like how a person was saying their line [she] could give an example like “oh you could say it this way.” 

 

Through her role in the production Urquia was able to connect multiple of the themes in the play to her own life. In one instance, she relates to Alice being told to control her anger and patience. “In the play a bunch of characters constantly tell Alice to control her temper and be patient” says Urquia, “I think that’s something that I learned, because most of the time I get really impatient and I get angry quickly when something doesn’t work out the way I wanted. I think that is something everyone has to learn. Just take your time.” Alice learns that passing time doesn’t exist in Wonderland, yet everyone is always rushing. In this perpetual cycle Alice becomes frustrated when she can’t get home fast enough, she eventually learns that time doesn’t hold the same importance in Wonderland as it does at home. Urquia discusses how taking your time is important. “Don’t automatically get mad at yourself if you can’t do something.  In the end, you will.” 

 

On and off stage every single person plays a role in creating the magic of a theatrical production. In her interview, Urquia expressed to the Pioneer the struggle of working behind the curtain. In many cases audience members tend to focus primarily on what happens on stage, specifically the acting. Even so, there is more to a production; lights, sound effects, props. Everyone behind the scenes in charge of makeup, costumes, and set changes “technically carry the show most of the time, without them there wouldn’t really be a show, there would just be the actors on stage,” acknowledges Urquia. 

 

The level of drama lights and sound can bring to a play is clear in WOHS’s rendition. In scene 9 Alice is about to be beheaded, red lights flash, the cast turns to silhouettes and in slow motion the executioner’s blade is brought down. So much work goes into providing the audience with the most dynamic experience possible. “I feel like people always congratulate the actors, but there’s more than just the actors. Obviously there are people backstage helping out with the props, and there are people in the booth doing lights or sound effects; people should give credit to them as well.” She recognizes the amount of talent and dedication the actors have though laments the lack of appreciation from the audience for the production crew. 

 

The play has long been a crucial part in the WOHS community, bringing students, teachers, parents together, the stage, Wonderland, in itself.

 

Following the final matinee performance Wendy Mapess-Chrzanowski, Director of the play and teacher at WOHS, posted to her Instagram calling the community within the drama club, a family, and stating “ I am feeling very grateful for all of the time and creativity of the production team, cast and crew of Alice in Wonderland…I am really proud of our students for physicalizing these characters and bringing Wonderland to life.” 

Congratulations to all who made this year’s fall play so enchanting! To see more photos of the production access this link. To stay up to date about upcoming productions, auditions and events follow the WOHS Drama Club on Instagram @wohsdramaclub