Alice in Wonderland Jr.

The three Alice's played by Caroline Clay, Sarah Shivel, and Molly Baldock, lead the entire cast in the finale of Alice in Wonderland Jr., at ACTC.

Haley and Caroline Clay feel like they’re home again.

Home, in this case, is a wide expanse of oak floorboards most people recognize as a stage.

The sisters, ages 13 and 15, are in the cast of Alice in Wonderland Jr., the Ashland Community and Technical College children’s theater production that opens today.

“It’s like being in the army or away at boarding school and then coming back home,” Caroline said before a dress rehearsal Wednesday.

“It’s like a breath of fresh air,” Haley added.

The girls, who have been active in ACTC theater for about five years, are among 40 children in the cast. It’s ACTC’s first production since a set collapse in the J.B. Sowards Theatre temporarily shut down the theater program last July.

“What we do here is the biggest community outreach the college has, so it’s very important to be back,” said director Karen Curnutte. Tickets for the production are selling briskly, she said.

“We tried to pick back up where we would have been in a normal season,” said Edward E. Figgins, director of theater at ACTC.

Late winter is the time when ACTC traditionally puts on its annual children’s production.

The accident that shut down the program involved a set staircase that collapsed when several cast members gathered on it for a picture. Figgins believes substandard lumber in the staircase caused the collapse.

“Accidents are accidents and they’re totally unpredictable,” he said. “We’ve always been very safety conscious and I’ve always built everything according to guidelines in the technical theater textbooks.”

He has developed a set of safety guidelines for all future productions. If anything, the accident has raised safety awareness, Figgins said.

“Alice Jr.” drew 80 hopefuls to audition — more than any children’s production ever at ACTC. Of those, 40 were chosen for parts and chorus.

Among them are three Alices — small, medium and tall. The small and tall Alices take the stage when she drinks and eats the mysterious concoctions that change her size. “It’s the neatest thing about the show,” Figgins said.

ACTC theater started as a children’s program and has become a community tradition. Figgins has been involved with the children’s program for the entire 16 years he’s been at the college.

“It feels very good to have the program back up and running after six months of not doing anything,” he said.

Following the unexpected hiatus, players are determined to make it a show to remember, the Clay sisters said.

“To a lot of the cast, this show is really important, because we haven’t been here for so long,” said Haley, who plays the Red Queen.

“We’ve been working our butts off,” said Caroline, who plays Tall Alice. “We want to prove ourselves.”

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or at (606) 326-2652.

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