VIDEO:About 40 children make trek to ‘Wonderland’

'Alice in Wonderland Jr.' auditions

For children, taking part in a play can be magical, and few
stories are as magical as

Alice in Wonderland.

About 40 children ages six through 17 attended casting auditions
Saturday for

Alice in Wonderland, Jr.

at the Gilroy Senior Center.
Kyte.Embed.path=””;Kyte.Embed.altpath=””;window.kyteplayer=new Kyte.Player(“”,{appKey:”default”,width:350,height:380,p:”5541″,s:1138494,tbid:”168″});

For children, taking part in a play can be magical, and few stories are as magical as “Alice in Wonderland.”

About 40 children ages six through 17 attended casting auditions Saturday for “Alice in Wonderland, Jr.” at the Gilroy Senior Center.

The play, about a curious girl named Alice who follows a rabbit down a rabbit hole, is put on by the City of Gilroy Community Service Department and Push Arts and Fitness.

It’s a children’s story based on Lewis Carroll’s novel, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” and Disney’s animated story. But Steven Herrera, 12, pointed out it has an edge to it.

“It’s a pretty scary storyline when you think about it,” said Herrera. “You never know what you’ll find in Wonderland.”

The children who auditioned can be sure there is a place in Wonderland for them. Director Michelle Serrano said everyone who auditioned will have the opportunity to be in the play. Serrano is new to working with the Community Service Department, and while Serrano has taught children scenes in plays, this will be Serrano’s first experience directing one in its entirety.

“I think it’s exciting the things I’ve already learned about them in the few hours (of) yesterday and today,” she said, referring to Saturday’s audition and callbacks Sunday.

Serrano said her favorite part of directing is watching children develop into performers.

Herrera is new to theater, and is discovering qualities about himself.

“I’m a good performer,” said a slightly bashful Herrera.

Alice in Wonderland will be his second play. In his first play, he was proud to get a speaking role as the groomsman in “A Gruesome Grimm’s Trilogy.” The school play was performed by Brownell Middle School students for Halloween as part of the Odyssey Theatre Company at the Christopher High School Black Box Theatre.

“That was the first time I’d been in a play and the first time I got to be an actor in a play.”

Herrera isn’t sure he is the best singer or dancer yet, but he is clear about what parts he wants. He is aiming for the key roles of the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the White Rabbit. With a smile, he said he didn’t want to be Alice, the Queen of Hearts, Flowers, the Doorknob or the Caterpillar.

The play will have some modern twists to it, Serrano said.

For example in the scene where Alice and the queen play a game outside, Alice says, “Oh let me guess, you want to play croquet using flamingo heads?” Instead the Queen of Hearts announces she wants to play “Simon Says,” explaining croquet is “so 19th century.”

Many auditioners aren’t new to theater. Rachel Kogan, 10, performed in the Gilroy Children’s Musical Theater “Big Band Bash” in November, and performs in plays throughout the year.

For the audition, actors prepared a song and performed a dance sequence. Kogan sang Michael Jackson’s “Ben,” and she said her audition went well.

Kogan loves to sing, and when she’s in a play, she sings the older cast member’s parts around the house. Which is good practice, because Kogan said she wants to be a singer or an actress when she grows up. Kogan and her family recently moved to Gilroy and Kogan has clips on Facebook and YouTube so her family and friends in New York can watch her sing.

Kogan wasn’t the only excited 10-year-old auditioning.

Sienna Jessel had her mother, Jaime Jessel, and best friend Sonita Freitag, 10, attending for moral support. The two girls from Pacific West Christian Academy have a lot of fun together; they even had a slumber party the night before. “Sonita’s borrowing my clothes,” Sienna pointed out.

Sienna loves the Alice in Wonderland story.

“My favorite part is when Alice eats the cake and grows,” she said.

Sienna said she also likes the singing flowers in the Disney version. She hopes she’ll get a speaking role.

An older group of 12- to 17- year olds prepared a short monologue or poem for the audition. Zach Dahm, 15, is hoping to be the Mad Hatter, and he chose Snoopy’s monologue from “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” and the song, “Suppertime” from the same play. His mother Dana Dahm said the Mad Hatter is the perfect part for Zach, because Zach’s a funny guy and likes to be silly.

With his dad in digital design and his uncle in music editing, Zach and his 12-year-old brother, Jake Dahm, often perform in front of a camera, shooting and editing their own videos. Zach said he and Jake recently shot a music video to Michael Jackson’s, “Smooth Criminal,” complete with special effects like fire shooting out of Jake’s hands.

In 6th grade, Zach was in a play called “Angels Aware.” Dana asked him if he needed help learning his lines, but Zach said no. Other parents came up to Dana telling her Zach was great in the play. She kept wondering what they were talking about.

Then, when Dana sat down for the show, she discovered Zach had been cast as the lead role “Michael”. It was the first time Dana had heard her son sing. After the play was over, Dana said Zach told her “I wanted to surprise you, Mom.”

Not all children at the audition are outgoing Serrano said.

“It’ll be fun to see them come out of themselves. Some of the shyer ones that audition are sometimes the ones who are the most surprising on stage.”

Patti Roberts said her daughter Kendra Roberts is one of those kids on the shyer side. But Kendra, 12, has been in six plays, and her mother says it’s Kendra’s favorite thing to do.

“It actually really surprises me she likes it so much,” Patti said.

Patti said Kendra participated in Gavilan College’s STAR Program, a performing arts summer camp. As she was picking her up from the program one day, Patti caught the end of one of Kendra’s improv skits.

Patti said her thought was, “Who’s that kid?”

Patti said she thinks the rigorous performing schedule teaches children discipline. Kendra and her mother were in a holiday play, “La Virgen De Tepeyac,” at the Mission San Juan Bautista. The play had 21 performances, including one at 5 a.m. Friday.

“You’ve really got to like it,” said Patti.

The production runs from April 8 through 10 and 15 and 16 at the Gilroy High School Theater. Cost: $7. Details: 846-0460 or [email protected]

Leave your comments