Masked Canvas Productions takes viewers down the Rabbit hole

Aero-Yoga performers James Hall, left, and Jessica Laporte getting into their poses in between sets. (Photo by Maryam Lehmann/SAIT)

Masked Canvas productions held their first ever launch party on Saturday, March 24 at the Chinese Cultural Centre to promote an upcoming play titled Wonderland.

The party, called the Down the Rabbit Hole Masquerade, was filled with acro-yoga performers, singers, comedic acts and a trailer for Wonderland, which offered the audience a snippet of what to expect from the full play.

Wonderland explores Alice from the original Alice in Wonderland story, and takes a look at her experiences from a mental health perspective.

Ann Taylor, founder of Masked Canvas Productions, said that both she and co-founder Jenna Rene struggle with mental health in different ways.

With mental health affecting many people in our society, Taylor said it is important to be able to talk about it without any stigma surrounding it.

“The more we can talk about it, the more we can feel better about it. It might be easier to find ways to deal with it together,” said Taylor.

Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland has always been a childhood favourite of Rene’s.

She wanted to take a story most people were familiar or comfortable with, and tie in some of the more difficult subject matter surrounding mental health.

Nicole Cates, who plays the Queen of Hearts in Wonderland, said that the play is meant to make the audience wonder if Alice was someone in “our world” interpreting people in her life as characters in Wonderland, or if Wonderland was indeed real, or if perhaps she was in an institution.

The actor collaborated with Taylor to write some of the songs, lyrics and harmonies in the play.

“It allows for more creativity in the vision because you get multiple opinions working together to create what we think is going to be the best song in this show,” said Cates.

Cates said she has never played such a large role in a show, and has never been part of a brand new production before.

Having studied opera in the past, the actor said it’s been fun to shape the character in a way that can really showcase what she can do. Cates gets to combine a folky song-style with bigger opera notes as well.

“To be able to create this character in a way that feels most authentic to myself, and to tune it to my vocal abilities is really fun,” said Cates.

In preparation for the trailer, the group of actors go through activities and workshops exisiting of long physical warm-ups ranging from dancing to YouTube videos to physical isolation exercises.

Present at the trailer were characters such as Alice, the Queen of Hearts, the Cheshire Cat and a narrator that seems to be present in both the “real world” and “Wonderland.”

Cates describes the Queen of Hearts as being the nastiest voice in your head telling you what you should and shouldn’t do.

Characters walk around and entertain the audience attending the show. (Photo by Maryam Lehmann/SAIT)

Portraying her character allows Cates to bring out her darkest side, something she said was interesting because she rarely gets to do in shows.

Masked Canvas Productions is a new company that started in September 2017.

The company’s philosophy is to provide a quality and empowering platform for local artists, no matter if the artist has had any experience or background in the field.

Wonderland is set to open towards the end of 2018.

The production company is still looking to cast the Mad Hatter and the Caterpillar.

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