BY TAMMY SCILEPPI
Forget everything you knew about Alice and her psychedelic trip to Wonderland.
A new Alice is coming to Long Island City and she’s an artist.
And you can be a part of her creative adventures in the upcoming production of “PAINTED ALICE” (by William Donnelly and Michael Mahler), when this quirky musical adaptation of Alice In Wonderland (for adults) hits The Plaxall Gallery (5-25 46 Ave.). Shows will run at 8 pm from April 19 to April 28.
Alice struggles to balance her artistic work and love life. As she distances herself from her partner, so she can better focus on her passion and find her creative flow, she accidentally falls through her canvas into a visual, art-inspired wonderland. In this strange world rife with self-indulgent artists, Alice meets a variety of outrageous characters that challenge her idea of success and help her answer the question, “Does domestic bliss cause artistic death?”
This immersive live theater experience is made possible thanks to a unique collaboration: Long Island City Artists, Inc. in association with Broadway producer Greg Schaffert (Tony Award-winning “Peter And The Starcatcher”), and Broadway director Jenn Rapp (“The Illusionist”) with musical direction by Conor Keelan (Broadway’s “A Bronx Tale”).
As well as playing Alice, co-producer Tana Sirois also works as the Performing Arts Director at The Plaxall Gallery.
“It’s our mission to foster new, exciting, off-beat work, and I’m thrilled to have the chance to produce such a fantastic (and hysterical) play,” Sirois said. “A large part of this show takes place in an art gallery, so we have an amazing opportunity to do site-specific work in a very cool, non-traditional venue.
“Our director, Jenn, is consistently changing the perspective of the audience throughout the play, as well as incorporating the audience into the action. Our gallery director, Norma Homberg, is curating an exhibition inspired by ‘Painted Alice’ that will be on view during the show, titled ‘Drink Me, Taste Me: An Exhibition of Curious Things.’” Since it has many sensory elements, the audience will have the opportunity to taste/smell/listen to the visual art show, as well as contribute to the exhibition with some of their own artwork that will be created during the show.
So, why Is Broadway talent working in LIC on a low-budget musical at an untraditional venue?
As it happens, co-producer Schaffert’s wife, Eileen Coyne, is a member of LICArtists. She paints in the gallery and they live in the area. When he told Sirois and her team about his idea for an original musical that would be perfect for the gallery, they gave it a big thumbs up.
“This development production allows the writer and creative team a chance to see the show on its feet in front of a paying audience. They will tell us what works and what doesn’t. It was an opportunity not to pass up,” Schaffert said.
“I’ve known the playwright, Bill Donnelly, for almost 20 years. ‘PAINTED ALICE’ started as a play that I produced in Wash DC. It was also produced in Kansas City. Seven years later we turned it into a musical with Michael Mahler writing the score. They are a perfect match and the show took on a new life. It was meant to be a musical.”
When you see the play you’ll find that it echoes some contemporary realities that artists and others can relate to.
“PAINTED ALICE” asks these questions: What does it take to be an artist? What do you sacrifice? What do you gain? “Being an artist is hard, whether it’s today or thousands of years ago. There is always the struggle to make a living, find a place to do your work, and find inspiration,” Schaffert said. “There are no correct answers. Let’s let the audience decide.”
Director/choreographer Jenn Rapp, an Astorian who rides a Citibike to work every day, said she’s excited about doing a show about artists in an art gallery, “creating art amongst art.”
“The gallery space is inspiring: no rules, no preconceived notions, ever-changing perspectives and those concepts are a big part of what this musical is about,” she explained.
And, re. the play’s message, she added: “We all struggle with finding our authentic self in a never-ending sea of outside influences. Everyone, in their own way, wants to have love and to love, to feel understood.
“As artists, we all identify so much of ourselves with what we do because we are pursuing our passion. Oftentimes, that passion for our art gets in the way of our passion for our friends and family. The question of whether Alice can have both is the central struggle in the show and it does take a very wild, fanciful, bizarre journey for our Alice to figure it out. I think all people, not just artists, can relate to that want, the desire to have it all, and are on their own paths to finding it.”
Performances: Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays at 8 pm, April 19 – 28. Tickets: www.licartists.org.
DRINK ME, TASTE ME will be on view April 11 through May 12. Gallery hours: Thursdays, 6 – 10 pm, Saturdays and Sundays, 12 – 6 pm.