SUNY Oswego technical theater students show off their skills in an actor-free musical lightshow piece during Quest that alludes to the theme of “Alice in Wonderland.”

“Going Mad in Wonderland” is a 20-minute play completely student-created without the leadership of an active director. The technical theater students started working on the play last year as COVID-19 shut down in-person plays, leaving the majority without anything to participate in as the virtual play options did not require their specific skills. 

“With COVID, our actors have had a bunch of opportunities with readings we held, and the virtual show we just did this semester, but our tech students were like ‘I am so bored, can we please do something?’” said Cole Sostak, SUNY Oswego’s technical theater coordinator. ”So a few of us faculty and staff got together and said: Yeah, anything you guys want to do, go for it but just keep safe.”

Technical theater students include those who work behind the scenes to make sure the shows run smoothly, including the lighting designer, sound designer, scenic designer, costume designer and more. 

After receiving approval to move forward with the project, the students quickly got to work. This is the first theater project in which the students were given such full creative freedom. Without the guidance of a seasoned director, each student had to take on that responsibility to complete the project. 

'Something great'

“It’s been an interesting process. A lot of back-and-forth and discussions, meetings, emails and group text everyday,” said Mallorie DeVisser, costume designer for “Going Mad in Wonderland.” “Trying to figure out how we can make this all possible, and I honestly think that we have really aimed to complete something great.” 

The show runs through various songs from the well-known play and musical “Alice in Wonderland.” However, this show does not tell the full story of Alice but instead bits and pieces, to capture the allusive theme of the shows. 

“It’s a show without being a show,” Sostak said. “The easiest way to tell the students is that it’s a rock show without the rock band.”  

To the technical theater students this was a needed project in order to shine a little attention on the people behind the curtains that help to make normal theater productions function smoothly. 

“I think the audience just needs to prepare because there is more to theater then just acting and directing and I feel like if they come to the show they are going to understand just how big the world of theater is,” DeVisser said. 

The play will air during Quest, the college’s annual celebration of scholarly and creative activity, starting at 3 p.m. on April 14. 

DeVisser said the show -- which is free and open for all to experience online -- consists of plenty of glam with over-the-top moments. It’s not a typical sit down show with an intermission, but instead a 20-minute production full of fun music and wild lights.

“For this they really told us ‘this is your show’ and I am fortunate to have worked with such talented friends from the theater department on this project,” DeVisser said. “My fellow students and I have worked really hard on this and it’s kind of like our baby. I just hope everyone enjoys the show.” 

For more information on this and other Quest activities, visit the Quest website.

-- Story by Jonathan Morrow of the Class of 2021