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Dreaming of Alice

Winnipeg actress revels in diving into the crazy world of Lewis Carroll

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/11/2015 (631 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

"A dream come true" is one of the old clichés actors employ to describe their unfettered joy at working with, say, a famous director or a celebrated star.

In conversation, Winnipeg actress Gwendolyn Collins blessedly avoids cracking that particular chestnut, even if she would have better reason to use it than most.

Gwendolyn Collins (centre) as Alice, Tristan Carlucci (left) and Aaron Pridham as Tweedledee  and Tweedledum in RMTC's all-Winnipeg production of Alice Through the Looking Glass.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Gwendolyn Collins (centre) as Alice, Tristan Carlucci (left) and Aaron Pridham as Tweedledee and Tweedledum in RMTC's all-Winnipeg production of Alice Through the Looking Glass.

After all, Collins, 29, plays the plucky heroine in Alice Through the Looking Glass, the lead role in the biggest seasonal theatrical production of 2015. (The show is an offshoot of the celebrated 2014 Stratford Festival production, employing the same design elements as the original, but recast with all-Manitoba actors.)

Bear in mind, before rehearsals began, Collins worked selling tickets at the RMTC box office. Between the time she was cast and rehearsals began, she found herself selling tickets for the show in which she is onstage pretty much for the duration for each performance.

Adding to the overall dreaminess of that situation, Collins was working among some of the cream of the city's acting talent in James Reaney's adaptation of the Lewis Carroll book, including Mariam Bernstein as the Red Queen and Arne MacPherson as Humpty Dumpty/the Red King.

"I went to school with a lot of people in the cast," she says, referring to her years in the University of Winnipeg's film and theatre department. "I've worked with almost everybody before, so it feels tremendously supportive and it feels like such an ensemble piece."

The other dreamy factor is Carroll's Alice stories are rooted in a crazy, anything-can-happen universe that can induce a certain dizziness in audiences.

"That's so key in Alice Through the Looking Glass," Collins says. "The dream world is such a theme throughout, and figuring out who you are and who the other person is.

"It causes this woozy, where-am-I feeling? Is this real?"

It helps, she says, that Alice is the stable rock in a story where all the other characters can and do take mad, creative flight in word and deed.

"After a few days of rehearsal, it dawned on me that I was the straight man," Collins says. "Everybody plays, like, seven different characters and they're all these wacky, kooky folk.

"In a way, Alice is the audience... She experiences things along with them," she says. "Basically, it's a series of scenes with Alice reacting to things she comes across."

The main challenge for Collins was figuring out how to organically portray a young British girl.

"I was working on the accent and I have some friends that have kids that are around seven, and I was observing them and trying to mimic things they do and the way they talk.

"So I came into the rehearsal process having done that work. And immediately the directors were saying, 'I feel like you're putting on a 7�-year-old. This is about taking things away, as opposed to putting them on.'

"I had to go back and think of myself at 7�, and think about all these things we put on as adults and take that away and find the seven-year-old in me," she says.

"Even in rehearsals, I found I was looking at things a little differently, with a sense of wonder," Collins says. "I think Alice has rubbed off on me a little."

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Randall King.

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History

Updated on Thursday, November 26, 2015 at 9:27 AM CST: Adds missing text, replaces photo

10:08 AM: Adds video preview

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