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Contact: David W. Booth/Stephanie Wise, NIU School of Theatre and Dance
(815) 753-1337

November 20, 2009

School of Theatre and Dance presents ‘Undiscovered Canvas’

DeKalb, Ill. — More than 10 college freshmen play the role of Alice as she wanders through Wonderland in the next NIU School of Theatre and Dance Studio Series production, “The Undiscovered Canvas.” The performance runs Thursday, Dec. 3, through Sunday, Dec. 6, in the Stevens Building Corner Theatre.

The unique concept of this “Alice in Wonderland” story is how the college freshman experience parallels Alice falling down a rabbit hole.

“She is the logical, rational, centered one,” said Dawn Arnold, the play’s director. “Everything around her seems wrong and strange and quizzical.” 

With multiple actors, “The Undiscovered Canvas” features multiple versions of Alice. 

“Their Alice self is themselves,” Arnold said. “They bravely face the audience with their unguarded selves, and as they transform into characters loosely based on the character in ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ they become something else.”

“In a sense, we are all Alice embarking on a strange journey, stepping into life in college and in the business of theatre,” said cast member Katherine Mersch. “All of us experience the things Alice does, though not quite in the same sense.”

Mersch plays an Alice who has been alone in Wonderland.

“Her main issue is that she’s really desperate for a friend and some guidance in the strange Wonderland,” Mersch said. “She tries way too hard to be (a) friend and comes off as overbearing and slightly obnoxious rather than friendly.”

The 17 members of the freshman BFA in acting class wrote the play’s scenes, turning them into expressions of their individual college experiences thus far.

“When it came down to the specific scenes … we were given the cast list and split up into our groups to develop the scripts on our own,” Mersch said. “Essentially, each scene is a mini-play written by different cast members.”

The students had permission to use as much or as little of “Alice in Wonderland” as they chose.

“The queen’s game is not croquet in our play,” Arnold said. “The queen’s game is auditions.”

The Mad Hatters tea party becomes a drinking game. In addition to Alice, Mersch plays Dormouse, a character in this scene.

“She has been playing the longest and the hardest,” Mersch said. “The Mad Hatter and March Hare encourage her to keep playing and she tries her hardest to keep up, but keeps falling asleep and losing focus.”

“(‘The Undiscovered Canvas’) is raw, has never been performed before, is hot off the imaginations and brains of these students” Arnold said.

She advises the audience to focus on the performers, not their costumes.

“This is a studio project designed to initiate this class’ theater training,” Arnold said. “It’s about bodies and souls, not about stage craft.”

Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. The Stevens Building is located on the NIU DeKalb campus, behind the Pizza Hut and McDonald’s restaurants on W. Lincoln Highway.

General admission tickets are $5 and only available at the door on performance nights. For more information, contact the SoTD box office at (815) 753-1600 or online at:

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