Sophia Hughes is the Queen of Hearts in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Sophia Hughes is the Queen of Hearts in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Seward in ‘Wonderland’

Seward High School Theatre Collective celebrates resurgence of theater on Eastern Kenai Peninsula

“Alice in Wonderland” is the latest show by the Seward High School Theatre Collective. The production celebrates the talent of Seward youth and the growth of the high school’s recently restarted theater program with vibrant colors, wacky characters, and more than one dance number.

The show, a stage adaptation written by Anne Coulter Martens, is directed by Meegan Miller. It also features Seward High’s Joel Williams as Technical Director.

Aurora Bukac, who plays Alice, said the show follows her familiar journey through Wonderland and features an eclectic mix of scenes and characters.

The first grinning face that Alice encounters is Lily Miles-Dafoe’s Cheshire Cat, who acts as a mostly reliable guide to the locales and the peoples of Wonderland. Alice goes on to meet the Blue Caterpillar, the Hatter, Humpty Dumpty, among others, before running afoul of the Queen of Hearts, played by Sophia Hughes.

The run of the show began last weekend, and the actors said they’ve been overwhelmed by the response — people filling the auditorium and celebrating their work.

“People just keep coming and coming,” Miles-Dafoe said. “It’s exhilarating.”

As the Cheshire cat, she gets a rare opportunity to speak to the audience — an experience that’s radically different when the seats are filled.

Bukac said Alice’s journey through Wonderland is a journey to “find understanding.” She said Alice is a cool character because she has a strong inquisitive spirit but also has to contend with what she encounters, like a scary queen.

Hughes said playing the queen can be hard because the role demands that she be mean to everyone — but reveling in the power of ruling over Wonderland in a big red dress creates lots of space to have fun.

Maria Schaefermeyer said the show has lots of fun comedic roles. As the cook, she has an interesting challenge of striking balance — being loud and over-the-top while working as a part of a scene with other actors.

Similarly, Angel Wagner, who plays Duchess, said leaning into the comedy was where the show came to life. She said playing for laughs is a big departure from her last roles in “Little Women,” but found it exciting to patronize Alice while keying into a funnier persona.

Evelyn Bukac, Aurora’s older sister, plays the Blue Caterpillar and also serves as stage manager. She said the show has been “very special,” both because of the themes of identity and social convention, but also because she gets to act alongside her younger sister — asking her “who are you?”

Miller said the young actors have driven the show to be the success that it’s become.

“We have this brave, talented group of students that are completely focused and in it,” Miller said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Miller helms the Seward High School Theatre Collective, and she said it represents the effort by the community more broadly than a traditional high school theater department — the show features students from all three Seward schools, as well as home-school students, and was facilitated through volunteer efforts by parents and donations from the community.

Williams, who is also the teacher of record for the program, said he’s been excited to see a growing number of students getting involved and expressing themselves. He said the show features more than two dozen actors before also counting featured dancers from Hive Dance Studio.

“It’s great to see all the smiling kids,” he said. “Getting more people in the theater.”

A driving ethos of the collective’s spirit, Miller said, is an idea borne of improvisation: “Yes, and?” She said the idea is to see the program grow, bring in more people from the community, and to “not just be what we always are and what we expected to be.”

Miller said that “Alice” is the first show that wholly embodies that “collective” as it comes into its own. “Alice” is the third show she’s directed since bringing theater back to Seward High School in 2023.

With each production, she said the cast has grown, the productions have grown, and the support has grown.

The actors echoed that sentiment, saying that “Alice” represents a bold step for theater in Seward.

“This is the show where our program really took off,” Evelyn said. “Our sets are like nothing we’ve ever seen before and the people are just wonderful — one of the best communities that I’ve ever been a part of.”

That idea of a supportive community is something many of the actors returned to, describing support both from within the cast and the program and from around the wider city.

Nia Mulholland-Kim described a supportive atmosphere, where the actors backed each other up and created space for improvement. Evelyn said the growth over only a few months of rehearsal, especially from the less experienced actors, was massive.

“This is the first community that I’ve joined that I feel very important in,” Evelyn said. “It’s so special to feel belonging, in this group of people.”

Both Mulholland-Kim and Bukac said they’ve been in all three shows by the nascent Seward High School Theatre Collective, and they’re excited to see its continued presence for Seward youth.

“In the future, we will continue to grow,” Mulholland-Kim said.

Miller said that she wants the collective to open doors for students in Seward, to show local students opportunities, give them a sense of community and create a space for them to showcase their talents and be celebrated for them.

“Alice in Wonderland” plays one more weekend in the Seward High School Auditorium. Shows are April 12-14, with Friday and Saturday’s shows being at 6 p.m. and Sunday’s being a matinee at 2 p.m.

For more information, including to purchase tickets, find “Seward High School Theatre Collective” on Facebook.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

Aurora Bukac is Alice and Sophia Hughes is the Queen of Hearts in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Aurora Bukac is Alice and Sophia Hughes is the Queen of Hearts in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Lily Miles-Dafoe is the Cheshire Cat and Aurora Bukac is Alice in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Lily Miles-Dafoe is the Cheshire Cat and Aurora Bukac is Alice in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Rebecca Brackin is the White Rabbit in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Rebecca Brackin is the White Rabbit in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Aurora Bukac is Alice and Lily Miles-Dafoe is the Cheshire Cat in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Aurora Bukac is Alice and Lily Miles-Dafoe is the Cheshire Cat in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Aurora Bukac is Alice and Lily Miles-Dafoe is the Cheshire Cat in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Aurora Bukac is Alice and Lily Miles-Dafoe is the Cheshire Cat in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Evelyn Bukac is Blue Caterpillar and Aurora Bukac is Alice in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Evelyn Bukac is Blue Caterpillar and Aurora Bukac is Alice in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Aurora Bukac is Alice and Evelyn Bukac is Blue Caterpillar in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Aurora Bukac is Alice and Evelyn Bukac is Blue Caterpillar in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Aurora Bukac is Alice and Angel Wagner is Duchess in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Aurora Bukac is Alice and Angel Wagner is Duchess in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Riley Hinton is Humpty Dumpty and Aurora Bukac is Alice in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Riley Hinton is Humpty Dumpty and Aurora Bukac is Alice in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Amara Ranson, Nia Mulholland-Kim and Ava Gunter are Flowers in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Amara Ranson, Nia Mulholland-Kim and Ava Gunter are Flowers in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Lily Biocic is March Hare, Lily Mooter is Hatter and Aurora Bukac is Alice in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Lily Biocic is March Hare, Lily Mooter is Hatter and Aurora Bukac is Alice in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Lily Mooter is Hatter and Lily Biocic is March Hare in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of Alice in Wonderland at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Lily Mooter is Hatter and Lily Biocic is March Hare in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of Alice in Wonderland at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Aurora Bukac is Alice and Evelyn Bukac is Blue Caterpillar in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective's production of "Alice in Wonderland" at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Lily Mooter is Hatter and Lily Biocic is March Hare in a rehearsal of Seward High School Theatre Collective’s production of Alice in Wonderland at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

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