For all of this city's community theatre organizations, there are very few dance companies that allow non-professional adult dancers to take the stage -- and local audiences to enjoy them.
That's why Jennifer Alden and Valerie Cordero created Portico Dans Theatre one year ago.
"We felt there was a need for a dance company in Tulsa that was open to different styles and different training and was able to not only perform at a theater level but also do blackbox or outside or whatever we could think of," Alden said.
Most of the company's performances to this point have been on a small scale, many of them in conjunction with Living Arts, the city's contemporary visual arts gallery.
Its latest, though, is Project Alice, a large-scale, two-act theatrical production inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. Alden both wrote and directs the work.
The first act deals with the former novel and the second act the latter.
"(The first act features) playing cards, whimsy, the nonsensical nature of (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)," Alden said. "The second book, to me, is a little bit more serious, a little bit darker."
Seemingly missing from Portico's production is the title character herself.
"The Alice character is the audience; we're the characters playing off the audience," Alden said. "Our actions are hopefully directed toward the audience to include them in the show."
Portico intends for the audience to feel the wide-eyed bewilderment Alice so obviously felt when being thrust into her alternate world and meeting an eccentric cast of characters.
Fans of Carroll's work will be familiar with the characters who grace the stage. They include the Lory Bird, March Hare, Smoking Caterpillar, Gambling Frog, Cheshire Cat, Door Mouse, Dodo Bird, Mock Turtle, Fish Footman, Pepper Cook, Mad Hatter, Elephant Bees, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Red and White Queens, Humpty Dumpty, the chess pieces, playing cards and Alice's tears.
The characters in Project Alice represent the emotions and segments of an individual's personality -- not just that of Alice (though she is the obvious individual to represent through these emotions), but of anyone sitting in the audience,
"For example, the (Mock) Turtle represents depression, sadness," Alden said. "The (Red) Queen is more of the narcissist. All of these different elements can be found in one person. You can have these as your personality. If one specific character resonates more with an audience member, maybe that's their character."
A narrator, played by Kristina M. Jones, leads the audience through Project Alice.
"I really wanted to bring out poetry of the books," Alden said. "If you look at Through the Looking Glass, there are so many fables and poems that are part of the book that you don't even realize. The narrator introduces each of the characters by reciting the poems (found in the books)."
Alden, Cordero and Michael J. Lopez, a local hip-hop dancer and choreographer, choreographed the works, which include ballet, jazz, modern and hip-hop movements.
"The only thing we don't have is tap," Alden said.
The piece also includes some stage combat and three aerial numbers, two with trapezes.
It's set to a diverse soundtrack of contemporary music that includes country western, Elvis, the Mamas and Papas and Rage Against the Machine tunes, among others.
"The music is what really inspired us to choreograph these pieces," Alden said.
Vivian Wolfe, also a dancer in the company, designed the costumes, and Richard Goss designed the sets, which draw their inspiration from the Renaissance era.
"I wanted something darker than Disney," Alden said. "I didn't want it to be bright and loud; I wanted that darker Renaissance quality."
Alden said, although the show wasn't written for kids, children often enjoy it because of the characters, themes and costumes.
"It's a story for everyone," she said. "It's not just something a dance enthusiast would enjoy; it's also for someone who doesn't know dance and just enjoys this story."
Portico Dans Theatre performs Project Alice in the John H. Williams Thetare of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, 110 E. 2nd St., Friday, July 16, at 8pm; Saturday, July 17, at 2pm and 8pm; and Sunday, July 18, at 2pm. Tickets are $15 and available at tulsapac.com.
Tinkerbell Dies ... Again
For the sixth consecutive year, Theatre Pops presents an evening of contemporary monologues with Tinkerbell is Dead ... Free Beer! on Sunday, July 18, at 8pm in the Charles E. Norman Theatre of the Tulsa PAC.
The title is taken from the show's organizer, Randall Whalen's, favorite line from Christopher Durang's 'dentity Crisis. The work features two acts of contemporary monologues by noted playwrights. Durang's work is always part of the show.
Tickets to Tinkerbell is Dead ... Free Beer! are $15 and available at the PAC's website.
Also on Stage
Also showing this weekend is Amy's Beauty: An African Fantasy Tale, July 15-16 at 7:30pm and July 17 at 3pm in the PAC's Norman Theatre.
Presented by the Center for Racial Justice, Amy's Beauty is about a young black girl who, upon gazing at her dark skin and African features, wonders why she can't be beautiful. "Mama Anta" tells her she is beautiful and proceeds to take her on a journey of self-discovery that also includes a lesson on her African heritage.
Tickets to the show are $10.
Jo Ann's Struggling Soul, presented by Theatre North, plays July 16-17 at 8pm and July 19 at 3pm in the PAC's Liddy Doenges Theatre. Written by Rodney L. Clark, the play is a modern-day African gospel musical based on the Bible's Book of Job. Jo Ann, a pastor, wife and mother of 10, loses everything, even becoming homeless, in a test of faith.
At the end of her trial, God restores her and blesses her beyond what was already hers. Tickets to this show are $15.
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