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By Brian Robin

Setting the Scene

Shaun Motley’s goal is to turn the Julianne Argyros Stage into a rock concert for families. Lights, projection screens, electricity literally pulsating from the stage to the audience, conveying the feeling that Alice’s Wonderland is “a performance, not just a musical.”

“You’ll see lights moving, flashing and get that whole rock-and-roll feeling,” the set designer for Alice’s Wonderland said. “That was our goal, to make it feel like a rock-and-roll show.”

With that audacious goal as a guide, Motley now gave himself another objective. Create a set using everyday items. Oh, and do so with a twist.

“We’re taking common items and putting them in uncommon situations,” he said. “We first started with scaffolding. Scaffolding has its challenges, but John (Gaddis IV), the interim technical director here is fantastic. He suggested we use a pipe-and-base structure. So we created one that resembles scaffolding, but is a lot more sturdy than scaffolding.

“We’re really trying to create something you see with everyday products, to change them and make them magical. Using black light, having things moving and having automation. It’s always cool when kids see things move by themselves, so that’s one of the things we’re trying to achieve here.”

Motley mentioned one of those common items doing uncommon duty is a rolling rack for clothes. Expect to see one of those pressed into duty as “something you didn’t expect to see.”

Motley returns to SCR for the first time since designing the set for Red Riding Hood in 2021. This is his second Theatre for Young Audiences and Families set design and fifth overall for SCR. Earlier, he designed sets for Fences (2010), Topdog-Underdog (2012) and Jitney (2012).

Directed by SCR’s Artistic Associate Rob Salas, Alice’s Wonderland, book by Julia Riew and J. Quinton Johnson, conceived by Linda Chichester and David Coffman, runs Feb. 10-25. It is a high-energy, musical adaptation of the Lewis Carroll classic. Alice’s Wonderland is recommended for ages 4+

About the author

South Coast Repertory

South Coast Repertory is a Tony Award-winning theatre is known for producing classics, contemporary hits and world premieres, for having the largest new-play development program in the nation and for advancing the art of theatre in service to the community. 

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