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Youth thespians bring Wonderland to life

WHALLONSBURG - The Boquet River Theatre Festival kicks off its summer season this weekend with a big rendition celebrating childhood.

"Alice in Wonderland Jr." hits the stage of the Whallonsburg Grange Hall Aug. 7 and 8, featuring 31 young actors in the fairy-tale musical, the largest cast ever for a BRTF show.

The cast of 8- to 12-year-olds from Essex, Willsboro, Westport, Elizabethtown, Wadhams and Lewis, also includes summer friends from New York City, southern New England and Washington, D.C.

Youth directors Dale Mason and Alyssa Carroll teamed up to work with the young cast, bringing their unique skills as veterans of BRTF, having started acting themselves at ages 8 and 9.

"I remember my first day and how it felt not knowing anyone except Katrina Fink, who's a counselor here now, too," said Alyssa, who has logged 12 years with BRTF. "This program introduced me to a whole new world of theatre, and I made friends immediately because everyone was interested and passionate about what I was interested in."

Dale has performed and worked with BRTF for six years.

"The theatre began as an adult-run production for kids; then we established two shows, one for youth and one for teens; and now it has evolved to teens directing younger kids," he explained. "I think we have a lot of sympathy for the directors we've had."

Beyond music, dance and acting, Carroll said rehearsing the show builds both patience and confidence in young people.

"Working on the show, we watch as their focus reigns in. The actors begin to see how, when they're patient, they can accomplish much more than if they just jumped in without a little work."

Carroll and Mason have been working alongside choreographer Jackie Robertin and musical director Gigi Carroll to bring the performance to the stage with technical direction by Jim Carroll.

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