A fantasy world erupted on Keene State College’s main theater stage from Wednesday, March 4 through Saturday, March 7.
Based on the book by Norton Juster, “The Phantom Tollbooth” takes its audience on the journey of young Milo, who receives a magical tollbooth that takes him to the Lands Beyond, a unique world of imagination.
The New York Times wrote, “It has something wonderful for anybody old enough to appreciate the allegorical wisdom of Alice in Wonderland and the pointed whimsey of the Wizard of Oz.”
Director of the production, Dan Patterson, was enthusiastic about bringing a children’s show back to KSC. “We haven’t done a children’s show in a long time,” Patterson explained, “I had never read this script and was hooked immediately. I knew right away that this play would captivate any audience.”
Since the play involved the use of puppets for the majority of the roles, the casting process was different than most. Patterson and Director of puppetry Celine Perron wanted students auditioning to bring in a stuffed animal and make it talk.
“I couldn’t think of a better way to show their true strength than by making them act through a stuffed animal,” Patterson said, “Luckily, all that auditioned were extremely comfortable with the task and it was very easy to see who would fit into each role.”
Junior at KSC, Henri Hardina-Blanchette, was cast by the department to three separate roles in the production, all of which are drastically different.
“I was a letharjarian, which was very relaxed and meditative, a word merchant who talked a mile a minute and the demon of insincerity who is devious and misleading,” Hardina-Blanchette noted, “Each role required a different persona which took a lot of practice to master.”
Hardina-Blanchette explained that he has done several performances with KSC’s theater department before and when he heard about this play he had to try out.
“I watched this cartoon and read this book constantly as a child and I just didn’t know that it was ever going to be made into a real play,” Hardina-Blanchette said, “Once I found out that it was being brought to Keene State I thought ‘Oh my God, I need to be a part of this.’”
“The Phantom Tollbooth” is a unique experience because it somehow finds a way to engage all ages with its plot.
KSC first-year, Tim Peterson, had a couple friends in the production and went to opening night for support. Peterson explained that he was hesitant at first when his friends asked him to come to the play.
“I don’t usually come to plays but I figured this would be a good opportunity to support the arts,” Peterson stated, “I would recommend the play to anyone who wants to have a fun time, including those who don’t usually like plays.”
Olivia Belanger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org