The Mercyhurst Theatre program faced great adversity throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unable to perform together on stage because of quarantine and social distancing restrictions, the program was forced to continue with few, albeit mighty, shows like “The Canterville Ghost” in October and “A Dickens of a Carol” in December.
These shows were successfully rehearsed and performed virtually by the cast members, and now the program expects to put on “Through the Looking Glass” in March.
Auditions were held on Feb. 4, and 12 cast members were selected to play a range of different characters.
Surprisingly, Alice will be played a male student, Braden Rosciszewski. The choice adds a fresh twist to this adaptation, which is already “highly unorthodox” according to artistic director of MIAC, Brett Johnson, the director of this production.
Johnson describes Alice in this production as “a narcissistic social media influencer who enters a fever-dream in which everyone has gone mad with boredom.”
“It’s a surreal reimagining in a pandemic world,” said Johnson.
Although the show will be on Zoom, Johnson will still have some scenic setup.
He asked Pittsburgh-based artist Tucker Topel, the artist behind several set designs for other Mercyhurst productions, to develop digital backgrounds. Topel designed sets for “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” and “She Kills Monsters.”
Johnson hopes both the visuals and acting will portray a relatable adaptation for the times and an accurate portrayal of widespread sentiments when under lockdown. One of the only options to keep busy was through entertainment services and social media. They failed to provide an adequate replacement for productivity (like working or exercising) in the longterm, which took a toll on overall mental health.
This adaptation of “Through the Looking Glass” will allow the actors and actresses to address their own hardships within a virtual environment. The play sheds light on a basic social need for human interaction and the consequences when the ability to socialize is taken away.
The other characters include the Red Queen and Lorina, which will be played by Jon Reddinger. Tori Altsman will play Edith, the Daisies and the White Queen; Rachele Heasley will play March Hare and Ali Forsythe and Ashleigh Morrison will play Tweedledee and Tweedledum, respectively. Violet, the Walrus and Lion will be played by Allison Christopher. Gracie Knopfel will play Carpenter and Unicorn; Abby Whitman will play Tiger-Lily and Humpty Dumpty; and Caroline Schroer will play Rose and the Jabberwocky. The White Knight will be played by Katelynn Bizzarro, and the Red Knight will be played by Veronica Guerrini.
Four cast members are seniors this year, and “Through the Looking Glass” is their final show. The seniors this year consist of Allison Christopher, Rachele Heasley, Caroline Schroer and Abby Whitman.
These individuals contributed to numerous productions throughout their years at Mercyhurst. A couple are theatre minors and got to experience Mercyhurst theatre both through classes and extracurriculars.
Should anyone wish to attend the show, dates are Thursday through Saturday, March 18-20 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 21 for a 2 p.m. matinee. Performances are free of charge but require registration at miac. mercyhurst.edu.