Alice in Moscow

By David Rauch

During the summer of 2005, 11 NIU theater students, who make up NIU’s SummerNite Theater Company, made a pilgrimage to the Mecca of Western acting – Moscow, Russia.

This year the participating students and faculty brought their own production, “Alice,” to Moscow. The show is now playing in Stevens Building’s Players Theater,

Alex Gelman, director of the School of Theatre and Dance, began talks with representatives of the prestigious Moscow Art Theatre School in 2001.

In 2003, the first group of students, each earning three credit hours for their month abroad, made their voyage to Moscow and were met with enthusiasm.

“The Moscow Art Theatre School responded very well to our production of Alice,” said Chris Markle, School of Theatre and Dance assistant professor, director and author of NIU’s current interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.”

Having a new NIU production to perform for the Moscow Theater was an idea never before put into play.

“It was good to give back to the Moscow Art Theater for all it had done for us,” said junior theater major Mary Holland. “It was our respectful gift.”

Because the production was well-received, NIU was asked to continue with its productions annually in Moscow.

“In Russia, there is an interest in the kind of physical, transformational, actor-driven productions that ‘Alice’ represents and we are hoping to be able to perform more shows while abroad,” Markle said.

SummerNite is NIU’s flagship acting vessel for off-campus performances.

“Due to a generous grant donor and university funds, we were able to bring SummerNite from its few years of dormancy,” Markle said.

The performance is a mixture of the techniques taught in Moscow and those taught at NIU.

“What made Moscow such a great opportunity was that it showed a different technique or way of teaching,” Holland said. “What’s amazing is how the different methods support each other.”