Helping 'Alice' find just the right fit in Denver

In the video above, DCPA President and CEO Scott Shiller offers a behind-the-scenes look into the whimsical world of “Lookingglass Alice” and the rigging that makes the magic happen.

By Carolyn Michaels
For the DCPA NewsCenter

While there weren’t any magical mushrooms like in the classic Lewis Carroll story, Lookingglass Alice found a way to fit into The Stage Theatre for the newly opened Theatre Company season. This innovative play from Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre has been adapted for the DCPA through the ingenuity of the Theatre Company production team and the cooperation of the entire Lookingglass company.

When Lookingglass Alice was first adapted and directed by Lookingglass Theatre ensemble member David Catlin, the staging was perfected for the Water Tower Water Works Theatre’s unique space in Chicago. There, theatregoers were seated around both sides of the tennis court-style stage, allowing the actors to play to the front and back of the audience. With its wild acrobatics and larger-than-life characters, the show came to life in a way that a conventional stage normally wouldn’t allow. But when the time came to take the show on tour, the production team had to learn how to adapt to new spaces across the country.

Lookingglass Alice requited stage modifications in Denver for its magic to fly here. Lookingglass Theatre spent almost an entire year coordinating with the DCPA to customize the show for Denver audiences. Catlin and his production team visited last year to brainstorm how seating and staging could reinvent the theatre.

“A great amount of trust was placed on the Denver production team to transform the space, and it was agreed that The Stage Theatre could embody the experience needed to properly represent the spectacle,” said the DCPA’s Director of Production, Jeff Gifford.

One of the greatest challenges of the transition was creating a tennis-court style audience experience. The show needs the actors to be able to play from front to back and from side to side. After some experimentation, the DCPA production team landed on the solution: seating some audience members on the stage.

It might seem like a simple fix, but adding seats on stage meant would require other modifications. To make sure theatergoers on stage and off view the show at the same level, the entire stage was dropped down to the height of Row AA seating — almost 2 feet lower than usual. Special risers were built to safely fit the new seats and still offer the same level of comfort as the traditional seating. Those sitting on stage will take a new entrance into the theatre and ushers will be trained to help ease the learning process.

Lookingglass Alice features action that literally rises above the stage through aerial acrobatics, stilt jumpers and larger-than-life characters. “To ensure the actors can perform their tricks in a safe environment, a specialized rigging system has been suspended above the stage to attach all of the trapeze-like elements,” said scenic design assistant Nicholas Renaud. “New trusses have been added to the setup to support different attachments at different positions on the stage, like Alice’s aerial silk and hoops.”

In Lookingglass Alice‘s previous tour stops, the rigging was attached as-is underneath the current stage setup. But since the modifications for the Denver production would change the positioning of the actors on stage for the entire show, the DCPA created a customized system.

These seating and staging hurdles posed less of a problem for touring stops like the Arsht Center in Miami. For its performance in the Ziff Ballet Opera House, the Lookingglass team was able to transfer its entire staging setup and place it atop the accommodatingly large stage. Though the horseshoe-shaped theatre wasn’t as intimate as the original setup at Water Tower Water Works, the large, 2,400-seat space offered a variety of views from different heights and angles.

When the Lookingglass  team arrived at the DCPA, members skipped working in a rehearsal space and moved directly into The Stage Theatre itself. This is rare but was necessary to make sure that the space and show worked smoothly. The DCPA production and tech teams spent their time tweaking all elements of the show as actors rehearsed their new choreography in the theatre. From moving around trap doors to making sure the new on-stage seating has the same sound and lighting experience as the rest of the theatre, the weeks leading up opening night were busy indeed.

Lookingglass Alice requited stage modifications in Denver for its magic to fly here.
‘Lookingglass Alice’ required stage modifications in Denver for its magic to fly here. Photo by John Moore.

Lookingglass Alice: Ticket information
Performances through Oct 11
Stage Theatre
ASL interpreted & Audio described performance: 1:30 p.m. Oct 3
Call 303-893-4100 or
TTY: 303-893-9582
Groups of 15 or more: 303-446-4829
Also: Purchase in person at The Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby. Buy and print online at

Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – – is the only authorized online ticket provider for the Denver engagement of ‘Lookingglass Alice.’

Previous NewsCenter coverage of Lookingglass Alice:
Photos: Opening night of Lookingglass Alice in Denver
Lookingglass Alice: A tumble through time, childhood in tow
Perspectives: 5 things we learned about Lookingglass Alice
Casting announced for Theatre Company’s fall shows
DCPA Theatre Company giddily going down rabbit hole in 2015-16
Win the Cadillac Treatment on Opening Night of Lookingglass Alice
Official show page

More ‘Meet the Cast’ profiles (more to come):
Molly Brennan, the Red Queen and others
Samuel Taylor, the White Knight
Adeoye, the Cheshire Cat and others

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