Wednesday, January 29, 2014


King Center / Melbourne, FL

There I was, jazzed for a
high-energy, hometown stage
production — surrounded by
1,000+ cheering fans, ALL
under the age of — TEN!

Under the supervision of director Karen Wilson (since 1997), the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts educational Theatre for Youth has presented programs to entertain and educate Florida kids here in Brevard County for nearly 20 years.

As I sat in the King Center audience yesterday morning, among throngs of elementary school age kids, I was reminded of what a treasure we have. As a kid growing up in the Midwest during the horse and buggy days of the early '70s, I never experienced the luxury of having a world-class venue in my hometown to offer these types of productions. Hence, today as a parent, I value the King Center, Ms. Wilson and their consistent commitment to community, culture and — education.

A quality production for the whole family.
Yesterday's show was quite a treat. Noel Holland and Don Gruel starred in Alice Rocks Wonderland, the Atlantic Coast Theatre adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

With a revised interpretation written by Gruel and original songs composed by Holland, the updated tale presents our beloved Alice in today's world — black leather jacket, iPod and all.

Yet despite the high-energy music, compelling story, colorful costumes and crazy characters, Alice  offered the audience more than just an appealing opportunity to ditch class.

Fueling an interest in books and reading was the primary power point as Alice inspired and  entertained the young and young at heart.

Another valuable message came from a weird worm who encouraged kids to "use words wisely" and to "say what you mean, and mean what you say." Wow, I wish I'd gotten that memo at age ten!

When a character suggests that Alice is "too big," she demonstrates confidence and self-esteem by responding, "I quite like my size" — a powerful example for kids in today's world of bulimic super-models and social ridicule.

"When you read a book, it 
isn't about getting to the end 
of the story at all. It's about 
being in the middle of it — 
imagining that you are in 
the story — feeling what the
characters feel and sharing 
their adventures with them."
-from Alice Rocks Wonderland 

Hanging after the show with
Don Gruel (L) and Noel Holland (R)
Featuring all of the usual suspects — Alice, the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, the Hatter and of course, the Queen of Hearts, Alice Rocks Wonderland offered all of the ingredients necessary for an engaging youth production — music, singing, dancing, storytelling, audience participation and a host of educational messages. Kudos to Atlantic Coast Theatre and the King Center.

Stand by — the Theatre for Youth Program has a couple of more doozies coming our way this school year.

-Christopher Long
(January 2014)

For further info on these 
and other upcoming events, 
contact the King Center.

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