The Yellow Brick Road now apparently leads to Kansas. And the wizard can be found in Phillips County
In the summer of 2020, in the midst of a pandemic and an atmosphere of caution and hesitancy, Phillips County Theatre Arts presented a full performance of Alice! In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass by Robyn Hilt.
Sarah Rudd. who spearheaded the production, is no stranger to bringing drama, comedy, and musicals to Phillips County. About seven years ago, the community formed an Arts Council to upgrade arts education and experience in Phillipsburg and surrounding communities. The result was a budget. This effort now supports a visual arts education effort, a professional performing arts budget to import a variety of professional performances, and a theatre arts branch to support local community theatre.
Having lived in the Midwest for several years, I can attest that “local” in that part of the country doesn’t mean “next door.” In fact, performers and theatre buffs have driven from surrounding communities from as far away as 60+ miles to participate as actors, directors, crew. and audience.
And participate they do. Rudd’s mother made many of the costumes and the cast consisted of many families who participate together in the process of making Alice! come to life.
However, “local” does mean “family-friendly.” And midwestern family-friendly. at that, especially for the big summer extravaganza. Rudd was very specific about the plays she would be willing to direct for that production. “Book of Mormon” obviously wouldn’t make the cut.
Rudd looks for material that will be comfortable for every family member to participate in or watch from the ages of “4 to 94” with a cast flexible enough to accommodate all the aspiring theater mavens who wish to participate.
Avoiding the “Disney Rut”
Being scrupulously aware of community standards, however, doesn’t mean that material has to be trite or overly simplified.
Rudd chose Alice! In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass primarily because she wanted to avoid getting stuck in the “Disney rut” and this adaptation offered an authentic yet unique take on the classic.
In addition, the fall theatre program offers a more adult drama for a smaller cast and somewhat more eclectic tastes every year. So, Broadway may be temporarily silent. And many theatres may be dark. But the spark is being kept alive in Kansas.