Mary Eliza Hendricks Utilizes Zoom to Produce Senior Showcase Play “Avant Alice”

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Mary Eliza Hendricks

A graphic for “Avant Alice,” a senior showcase via Zoom by Mary Eliza Hendricks.

Guest Contributor, Tatum Harvel

Last week, “Avant Alice” took to the Zoom screen in Mary Eliza Hendricks’s adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland.” This senior project took a new, innovative approach and lots of creativity in the process.

“Avant Alice” is portrayed in the homes of each actor. The set is the living rooms, bedrooms, hallways, and kitchens of each student. As the story continues, the world of Alice evolves through each Zoom box. Innovation flows throughout the production in order to bring this story to life.

“Oh my gosh, my actors were so good. It made everything so much easier. It was also a lot easier to direct scenes with a smaller number of people in it because of the Zoom barrier. I was very proud of the larger scenes and my actors,” said Hendricks, discussing her production being filmed fully online.

Bridging off of the difficulties of Zoom, Hendricks found unique ways to use it to her advantage. In one scene, we see the Cheshire Cat disappear into a void of darkness without any advanced special effects. However, it worked marvelously.

“I was struggling with figuring out how to make the Cheshire work and my actor, Gigi, is amazing. I love her. I was like, ‘Gigi, how do we make the Cheshire disappear?’ She said, ‘Give me a minute.’ She turned off the lights in her hallway and then walked backwards. I was like, ‘You’re brilliant!’ I refined that original concept and it worked perfectly,” said Hendricks. These outside-of-the-box scenes are scattered throughout the entire production, bringing Hendricks’s vision to fruition.

Hendricks knew she could use the Zoom platform to her advantage from the start, “It almost feels like we’re doing theatre in spite of Zoom. We’re doing theatre as we’re persevering through the medium and ignoring the medium. I thought, what if we actually use the medium to its advantage? What if we actually made the medium of Zoom an active storytelling choice, rather than an obstacle? That question propelled my entire project,” she said.

After having the initial idea, Hendricks got to work. “I came up with the idea sometime in October. I wrote it in November, applied for a grant for equipment, held auditions in January, followed by rehearsals. We had a break in rehearsals in February, then we rehearsed and filmed in March. I made all of the props and costumes, and it was so much fun,” said Hendricks.

In the end, Hendricks said, “What really drew me to Alice in Wonderland was that it reflected what we’ve all been through in the pandemic. On the surface, it doesn’t make any sense. For Alice, it’s confusing, frustrating, and scary. To us, it looks fun and wonderful. From Alice’s perspective, it’s terrifying. I wanted something that mimicked our experience throughout the past year. That felt very authentic to me. We’re all trying to make sense of this world that no longer makes sense.”

Looking back on her experience, Hendricks said, “I loved working with my actors, the research involved, playing with different concepts, and in the future I will continue to more creatively use perspective and technology in storytelling.”