The Mad Hatter (Orion Pendley) mystifies Alice (Grace Wentzel) in “Alice in Wonderland,” the Teen Initiative production at Port Townsend’s Key City Public Theatre this weekend. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

The Mad Hatter (Orion Pendley) mystifies Alice (Grace Wentzel) in “Alice in Wonderland,” the Teen Initiative production at Port Townsend’s Key City Public Theatre this weekend. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

‘Alice’ in Port Townsendland

Teen Initiative play this weekend

PORT TOWNSEND — So there’s this girl who trips down a rabbit hole. She meets an assortment of people and animals, many of whom say weird things to her.

Curiouser and curiouser, she seeks to make sense of it all. In the process our girl has a tilted adventure — much like adolescence itself.

This is “Alice in Wonderland,” Key City Public Theatre’s Teen Initiative production on stage this weekend.

Alice, portrayed by Port Townsend High School sophomore Grace Wentzel, starts her trip at 7 tonight, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and finally at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Key City Playhouse, 419 Washington St.

Admission to the afternoon shows is on a pay-what-you-wish basis at the door.

To purchase advance tickets for evening performances, visit keycitypublictheatre.org or call 360-385-5278.

Prices range from $5 for students to $12 for adults. Children age 4 and younger are admitted free.

Remaining tickets will be sold at the door.

Based on the 154-year-old Lewis Carroll novel, this play is a distinctly teenage Port Townsend take on things.

The Teen Initiative, now in its fourth year, is designed to give youngsters ages 13 to 19 the experience of producing an entire show, from set and costume designs to stage management and publicity.

And the actors, full of energy and the ability to learn loads of lines, step into multiple roles.

Orion Pendley, 17, plays the King, the Father and the Mad Hatter; Hunter James, 14, is the White Rabbit, the Dormouse and the Gnat; Melody Douglas, also 14, is Sister, the Duchess and Humpty Dumpty; Miranda McClave, 19, is the Mum, the Caterpillar, the Cook and the Cheshire Cat. Zoe Cook and Trillium Burbank, both 14, are the Playing Cards.

And Wentzel, recently seen in the campus “Cabaret” production, is a raven-haired Alice.

The cast features teens who have appeared in Key City’s professional main-stage productions. Pendley, for example, was part of the ensemble in Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” this month in Chetzemoka Park. He also played the Emcee in “Cabaret.”

“Alice in Wonderland” has been done countless times, so “it’s so fun seeing another group’s twist on it,” said lighting technician Austin Krieg.

It’s also cool, he added, to see how the Teen Initiative is evolving. He acted in three previous teen-produced shows at Key City. Now that Krieg is 20, he’s aged out — and works on productions at Fort Worden State Park.

The director of “Alice in Wonderland” is 19-year-old Cece Nielsen. The daughter of longtime Port Townsend High School theater program director Jennifer Nielsen, she grew up amidst the footlights. And while Key City artistic director Denise Winter serves as adviser, Nielsen is shaping the play according to her own vision.

All of the Teen Initiative students participate in this educational program at no cost, thanks to the generosity of individual sponsors who raise paddles at Key City’s Garden Party auction in June. The theater company’s season sponsors, Avamere at Port Townsend, Aldrich’s Market, Alchemy Bistro, and Edensaw Woods, provide additional funding.

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Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.

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