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Theater Arts Invites Community to Wonderland

New faculty member Dr. Melinda Oliver directs her first show Alice In Wonderland from Nov. 29 - Dec. 2 for SBVC's fall production in the historic SBVC Auditorium.

alice in wonderland characters in front of auditoriumStudents in SBVC’s Theater Arts Program will present five performances of Alice in Wonderland from November 29 to December 2. Adapted for the stage by Eva Le Gallienne and Florida Friebus, and produced through special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc., the production will be the first at SBVC by new faculty member Dr. Melinda Oliver.

(see ticket information at end of article)

Melinda received a Ph.D. in Theatre from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, an M.A. in Theatre from the University of Kentucky, and a B.F.A. in Theatre Acting from Miami University in Ohio.  Dr. Oliver has also studied Theatre Abroad at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. She served as a Theatre Instructor at Bowling Green University, the Head of the Theatre Department for Cerro Coso Community College, and a Professor of Communication at Bakersfield College. She also worked as a Development Assistant for LightStorm Entertainment, the exclusive production company for James Cameron. She is a member of the SAG/AFTRA Union and a member of several professional organizations including ATHE, CETA, and NCA.   

Melinda (pictured at right) took some time out from rehearsals to answer a few questions about herself, the show, and her first semester as a full-time faculty member at SBVC.
Photo of Theater Arts Instructor Melinda Fogle Oliver
SBVC: How did you first get involved in theater?

Dr. Melinda Oliver:  I made my stage debut at age 7, playing the role of an ugly stepsister in a community theatre production of Cinderella. What a great character role because I got to be loud and annoying and people applauded me for it!  It was a magical summer and I was forever hooked on the theatre.

SBVC: When did you know that you wanted to make a career out of being in/around the theater, acting, etc.?
Dr. Melinda Oliver:  From my earliest memories, I have always wanted to be involved with entertainment. Writing, acting, and directing are my passions, and I am lucky to have the chance to share my passions with my students.  

SBVC: In the dozens of productions you’ve been involved with over your career, which stands out as most memorable to you and why? 

Dr. Melinda Oliver:  That is a difficult question.  I have acted in, written, and directed hundreds of shows, including Shakespeare plays, musicals, children’s theatre, improv shows, experimental pieces, devised pieces, murder mysteries, talent shows, poetry slams, and acting/voice/movement showcases. I have also worked in radio, film, and television. Each piece is close to my heart when I am in the midst of rehearsals and production. 

One play that stands out is The Laramie Project which I directed in 2008. The Laramie Project tells the true life story of Matthew Shepard, a gay student, who was kidnapped, beaten, and left to die. The actors took the project very seriously, and the resulting production was honest, raw, and heartbreaking. We produced the play at a small, isolated college, and the production resulted in real change on campus and in the community.  
SBVC: What do you remember about Alice in Wonderland as a child?  

Dr. Melinda Oliver:  I wanted to climb through the glass into Wonderland. Wonderland is quite like the tea party ride at Disneyland. You climb aboard, and it shakes you up and spins you around. When you climb back off, you feel a little dizzy, and you just remember that it was a fun and exciting ride!  

SBVC: What do you believe children will enjoy the most about this fall’s production of Alice in Wonderland? Is there something for adults too?  

Dr. Melinda Oliver:  This is a production for all ages. Children will enjoy the animated characters and bold visuals of the show. Adults will enjoy the show on a different level. The more the cast and I work on the show, the more depth, symbolism, and darkness we find. Of course, people have different interpretations of the Alice in Wonderland. Some find references to altered states of mind while others interpret the story as a simple childhood daydream. We will let the audience decide for themselves.

SBVC: How does the historic SBVC Auditorium compare to the different venues you’ve worked with over your career? 

Dr. Melinda Oliver:  The Auditorium is a beautiful space; it has character and history.  I have worked in many performance venues, and the students at San Bernardino Valley College are lucky to work in such a fine facility.

SBVC: How has your transition to the Inland Empire and life as a new faculty member gone thus far?

Dr. Melinda Oliver:  I have received such a warm welcome from students, faculty, staff, administration, and community members.  One thing I especially enjoy is the creative energy on campus.  I am proud to be part of the San Bernardino Valley College family.

SBVC: Beyond the delivering of lines and performance chops, what can community college students learn from being part of a theatre production?

Dr. Melinda Oliver:  Students get the opportunity to practice their public speaking skills. Additionally, the students get to step in someone else’s shoes and see the world from someone else’s perspective. Through this experience, students learn about other people and other cultures, and, in turn, they develop understanding and compassion for others. Ultimately, performers develop their communication and collaboration skills which can serve them in whatever profession they choose.    

SBVC: It seems like you and the students are putting in a lot of hours in the Auditorium. How much time per week has been going into rehearsals?

Dr. Melinda Oliver:  We rehearse Monday through Thursday from 6:00-8:30 pm. Additionally, the actors put in hours outside of class to study their characters, memorize their lines, work with their scene partners, and perfect their songs and dances. Although our production is technically not a musical, we do have a few songs and dances. The technical students are also dedicating a great deal of time to the production. They are building set pieces and working on lights, sound, and effects for the production Monday through Thursday.

SBVC: For those considering coming to the show, what can you share about the quality of the performances that we’ll see from your hard-working cast? 

Dr. Melinda Oliver:  We have an exceptionally talented and creative cast and crew, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the level of thought and detail put into every character and technical element. Without giving away too much, we are taking a different spin on Alice in Wonderland. We have all the colorful characters, adventure, and amazing visuals you would expect from Alice in Wonderland, but our production takes you to a different kind of Wonderland.  You’ll have to see the show and journey to Wonderland yourself to learn more!

The San Bernardino Valley College Theater Arts Department presents Alice in Wonderland on November 29-30 and December 1 at 8:00 p.m. and matinee shows on December 1 and 2 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are available at the SBVC Bookstore or at the door. General admission tickets are $10.00; Students, staff, faculty, seniors, and military tickets are $8.00. Children ages 3-12 years are $5.00. Groups of 15+ are $5.00 per person. All shows will be held in the historic SBVC Auditorium at 701 S. Mt. Vernon Avenue on the campus of San Bernardino Valley College with plenty of free parking. For more information, call 909.384.8243.