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Artists in wonderland

By Amy Lohmann '14
January 23, 2013

The Alice Project is a joint production of the college's performance and visual arts departments.

When attending a performance, it's customary to sit quietly in your seat until the curtain drops. This January that rule no longer applies.

Instead, audience members attending this month's performance of The Alice Project at St. Olaf College will traverse through Dittmann Center as they try to keep up with the cast.

The project, produced by the college's performance and visual arts departments, is based loosely on Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. It combines the already existing course Art 240: Creating Spectacle with the vision of Joe Chvala, visiting from his Flying Foot Forum dance company.

Twenty-five students from various disciplines auditioned to spend the month creating a performance that incorporates percussive dance, musical theater, and visual spectacle. And though the story is familiar, there will be plenty of surprises along the way.

Students rehearse for The Alice Project on one of the stairways in Dittmann Center. 

"The show is based on Alice in Wonderland, but it's not going to be Disney-esque," says Chvala. "We're trying to do an all-around atmosphere."

In the spirit of creating said atmosphere, the show takes place throughout the entire space of Dittmann Center. Simultaneous pieces occur from the stairwell to the ceramics studio, where the spinning pottery wheels become part of the Mad Hatter's tea party. Students will fill these spaces with various pieces, some choreographed by their instructors and others initiated and created by the students themselves.

While the students each come from their own specialty, the goal is to push beyond departmental boundaries in the spirit of collaboration. "The experience is designed to tap into the expertise of the students, allowing them to show off a bit while pushing them to try other things," says Associate Professor of Art and Art History Irve Dell. "This is a big interdisciplinary mash-up."

The joint effort not only involves different departments, but members of the surrounding community as well, including students from the Arcadia Charter School (formerly ARTech Charter School).

A collaboration of this complexity is tricky to throw together in such a short amount of time, something department leaders are well aware of. "The only way to get successful continued commitment is to make it a class," says Assistant Professor of Dance and Department Chair Sherry Saterstrom. "That is the gift of Interim: it allows the experience to be intense and focused."

The production will keep audience members on their toes with continuous activity: installations, dancing, singing, and puppets, to name a few. "The project feels more and more ambitious as I think of it," says Dell. "It will be wild. A spectacle. Unexpected!"

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or