A Theatre Near U theatre and film academy is working hard to change the perception of “youth theatre.”
For starters, the company is a kind of all-star factory for high school theatre students. But these are not students that do theatre as a hobby. These are students who are defined by theatre, taking their passion to the next level.
“Twas Brillig” is the newest world premiere musical for the troupe, getting ready for a run at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.
In this play, adapted from the popular story “Alice in Wonderland,” the audience follows the character of Mary Pickett. She steps through a doorway and is thrust into the land of Wonder. In just a few hours, a new Queen is set to commence. The problem is, Mary is the one that is slated for crowning. And she is none too happy about it.
Artistic director, the show’s director and the writer of the show’s book is Tony Kienitz. He has found that “Alice in Wonderland” holds up well after many years, and there is still a curiosity for the material.
“It’s the second or third most read book in the world and it is so deeply ingrained in the public,” said Kienitz. “The characters are based on real people, and when I read about them, it became a spider web and became a lot more twisted. It was fascinating to me and I tried as much as I could to embellish and utilize the newfound facts with the newfound elements to the story.”
“Alice in Wonderland” is not a show that Kienitz is madly in love with. But it does present some great challenges, a piece that has the potential for growth and freshness.
“It isn’t structured very well really, because Alice never changes, and she’s not a hero in any regard,” said Kienitz. “The characters are fairly one dimensional.
“The reason we chose this story is that it had a place to grow from for the actors we knew we would have. I looked at the story as a great foundation to work from.”
The phrase “twas brillig” comes from Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem “Jabberwocky.” The tone of the poem makes little sense, as it is partly a dream. But for Kienitz, the phrase is a perfect jumping off point as a metaphor for his show.
“One thing it did make me passionate about was the word brillig, which means boiling,” said Kienitz. “You can explore facets of the story where things are coming to a boil, and I really liked that.”
One of the most unique aspects of the production is the fact that the two co-composers are seniors Andrew Lu and Emil Ernström. Both have a firm pedigree at Palo Alto High School, with Ernström getting ready to attend Yale University in the fall.
“I really, firmly believe these guys can be huge if they stay together.”
Kienitz cut his teeth on the stages of Southern California. But even though he found much success as a theatre practitioner down in Los Angeles, the town is first and foremost, a film and then television hotbed. The Bay Area is different and, if you are into theatre, refreshing.
“In Los Angeles, everybody on every block works in the film or television industry,” said Kienitz. “Down there, it’s a different vibe, much more business oriented.
“I enjoy going to theatre a lot more here because audiences want to see it, and it’s not just about being seen. It’s different to get people to watch for the reasons you want them to watch. There is not a second agenda or a third agenda. It’s about what I think it should be about.”
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
A Theatre Near U theatre and film academy presents “Twas Brillig”
Book by Tony Kienitz
Music and lyrics co-composed by Andrew Lu and Emil Ernström
June 12th – 27th
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts Second Stage
500 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA
Tickets range from $17 – 22
For tickets, call 650-903-6000 or visit www.mvcpa.com