Missy Gipson believes she is making her theater performance group more original with each passing month.
Gipson, who is the executive director for the Young Actors Guild, is having her group perform "Wonderland: The Real Story," a 40-minute play she recently wrote that, in her words, puts a "fun, fresh" spin on some well-known, classic characters.
"This is the third one I've written in this Real Story series," she said of the production, which will be staged at 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. today and Friday at the Greenwood Performing Arts Center, 515 E. Gary St. in Greenwood. "I take fairly tales and classics and fracture them, and 'Wonderland' comes from the idea of, why else would Alice go down the rabbit hole? It has to be better than she's just following a rabbit."
Directed by Audra Bocksnick and Kim Pierson, "Wonderland: The Real Story" will be presented by three sets of cast members, affectionately dubbed the Clubs Cast, the Spades Cast and the Hearts Cast, Gipson said. Among the characters to be seen and heard throughout "Wonderland: The Real Story" will be Alice, White Rabbit and the Cheshire Cat, as well as some enjoyable, left-of-center appearances, she said.
"There's all these wonderful characters that you know and love, plus there's Little Bo Peep and Dracula," Gipson said with a laugh. "We twist it around and make it short and fun for families to enjoy."
Cinderella also will interact with the on-stage characters, said Bocksnick, who is directing the Spades Cast and Hearts Cast.
"It's really neat having three casts," she said. "You have kids who are ages 6 to 19, and they're watching each other. When the little ones can watch the older ones perform their same roles, that gives the younger kids a direction and confidence.
"And everyone is happy and everyone claps," Bocksnick added. "The little ones get that confidence boost, and the older kids get to step into that guiding role."
Gipson said the main reason she writes these original plays is to allow the Young Actors Guild to do touring versions during the series.
"For the traveling part, they are ready to pick up and go," she said. "The sets are cardboard and very minimal but look great, and they can be quickly picked up and taken to another location for a performance.
"We can take the play on the road to northwest Arkansas and the greater Fort Smith region," Gipson added. "We take the show to a lot of nonprofits and outreach organizations that serve youth, veterans and people of all ages with disabilities. The reaction is so fun there."
During one of the guild's traveling performances in 2017, Gipson and her cast and crew were greeted by a pleasant surprise.
"Someone told us that it was the first play they had ever seen; that was really awesome and heart-warming," she said. "The touring program definitely is one of my favorite programs that the Young Actors Guild does each year."
Kim Pierson, the treasurer for the guild who is directing the Clubs Cast, agreed that the touring portion of the program offers much excitement for performers and audience members each year.
"This show will travel around the community on Saturday and Sunday, and that is the main purpose of this show," said Pierson, who added that the touring schedule is still being finalized. "The main reason is to take the arts where the arts normally aren't seen, or the arts normally aren't free, like the library and nursing homes.
"That always makes the show different because the kids have to adapt to the space and to the size of the audience," she added. "The kids also have to adapt to the ages of the audience members, and that causes the kids to be very spontaneous. The kids have to adapt quickly, and I like this for that reason."