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Minnesota Fringe Festival

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Fifteen year-old Alice Bliss is trying to cope:
Dad's missing in action, Mom won't come out of her bedroom, and her precocious little sister just wants a normal family.
Somebody needs to take charge.

The reviews are coming in --
critics and audiences love ALICE UNWRAPPED!

Graydon Royce at the STARTRIBUNE says:

"Wow. An outbreak of real art at the Fringe... The music, the heartbreak, the sense of honor in young Alice make this 35-minute piece a poignant ode to family relationships... Nautilus Music-Theater has brought this kind of small, beautiful jewel to the Fringe many times. This year is no exception..."

Dominic Papatola at the PIONEER PRESS
calls it a "Must See":

"Jill Anna Ponasik gives lovely, rending and plaintively honest
voice to Alice as the composing team of Laura Harrington and
Jenny Giering create a dissonant but affecting score..."

Audiences and bloggers are saying:

"One expects top notch professionalism from Nautilus Music-Theater and this production does not disappoint -- an absolutely perfect blend of music and theater in a dramatic one-person tour-de-force -- beautifully sung and accompanied -- this touching timely and poignant musical was a peak fringe experience for me -- Fringe shows usually receive short or somewhat sustained applause; this performance received an instantaneous and unanimous and long standing ovation -- one show like this makes the entire $150 UltraPass worth it -- if you only see one Fringe Festival show, make it ALICE UNWRAPPED!"

ALICE UNWRAPPED tells the story of 15-year-old Alice Bliss and her efforts to hold her family together while her reservist father is missing in action during the Iraq war. This piece explores what happens to those left at home while loved ones go off to fight. Alice is inappropriately left "in charge" of her mother and sister during her father's absence. She responds by frantically taking over while defensively protecting herself with homemade armor. Her 9-year-old genius sister eventually persuades her to release her fears, let go of her perfectionism, and forgive herself. Through music and words, seasoned with both humor and passion, ALICE UNWRAPPED explores issues of responsibility, fear of intimacy, protection, appropriate family boundaries, and the spirituality of compassion.

The cast

Role: Alice Bliss
Jill Anna most recently appeared as Eve in the Nautilus production of THE DIARY OF ADAM AND EVE, and as Carrie in their production of CAROUSEL. Other Nautilus appearances include MAN OF LA MANCHA and FROM THE DIARY OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, along with such Rough Cuts programs as LAVENDER GIRL, EL NINO, DEAD MAN WALKING, and LOSS OF BREATH (which she also produced in the 2007 Fringe Festival). Jill Anna has also worked with the Minnesota Opera, Theatre de la Jeune Lune, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, VocalEssence, Skylark Opera, Theater Latte Da, Skylight Opera Theater, Milwaukee Opera Theater, and the Ohio Light Opera. She was a participant in the Wesley Balk Opera/Music-Theater Institute and three of Nautilus' Composer-Librettist Studios.

Role: Stage Director
Ben serves as Artistic Director of Nautilus, directing such world-premiere productions of LOSS OF BREATH, MEDITATIONS ON ARION, I AM ANNE FRANK, HEARTS ON FIRE, DANTE'S VIEW, and the revised version of SNOW LEOPARD, as well as new productions of THE DIARY OF ADAM AND EVE, A WATER BIRD TALK, CAROUSEL, MAN OF LA MANCHA, SONGS FROM AN UNMADE BED, JOHN AND JEN, FROM THE DIARY OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, THE LAST FIVE YEARS, GOBLIN MARKET, INTO THE WOODS, Ricky Ian Gordon's ORPHEUS AND EURIDICE, and most recently, SISTER STORIES. He also produces the company's Rough Cuts program (their monthly works-in-progress series), manages the Wesley Balk Opera/Music-Theater Institute, and directs the Nautilus Composer-Librettist Studio in New York and Saint Paul.

Role: Music Director
Michael is a performer, songwriter and musical director who is best known as the co-writer and co-star of the play TRIPLE ESPRESSO: A HIGHLY CAFFEINATED COMEDY. The show has been seen by over 1.5 million people around the world, including London's West End, Dublin, Munich and Berlin. Michael has also had the pleasure of working with Nautilus Music-Theater on numerous Rough Cuts, was commissioned to compose a short piece as part of 365 PLAYS/365 DAYS by Suzan-Lori Parks, and participated in the Wesley Balk Opera/Music-Theater Institute. He is the worship coordinator at Roseville Covenant Church, and freelances as a musical director, an actor in commercials and voice-overs, and as a corporate entertainer. Michael is an active member of The Dramatist Guild of America. He is married to theater director Joy Donley, and has 2 wonderful kids.

Role: Writer
Laura has had her award-winning plays, musicals, operas, and radio plays widely produced in the United States, Canada, and abroad. She is a two time winner of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Award in playwriting and a two time winner of the Clauder Competition for best new play in New England for Mercy and Hallowed Ground, and was recently given the 2008 Kleban Award for Most Promising Librettist in American Musical Theatre. Her other music theatre work includes MARTIN GUERRE (with Roger Ames), THE PERFECT 36 (with Mel Marvin), JOAN OF ARC (with Mel Marvin), RESURRECTION (Tod Machover), and CROSSING BROOKLYN (with Jenny Giering). She is currently writing a new opera, ALMA MAHLER, with the composer Deborah Drattell, and a series of choral works, with composer Roger Ames. Laura has participated in Nautilus' Composer-Librettist Studio, and has had her work performed in their Rough Cuts series. Her music-theater piece HEARTS ON FIRE was premiered by Nautilus in 1995.

Role: Composer
Jenny is an award-winning composer, singer, songwriter and pianist who previously collaborated with Laura Harrington on CROSSING BROOKLYN. Her other music-theater work includes such pieces as PRINCESS CARABOO (with Marsha Norman), THE MISTRESS CYCLE (with Beth Blatt), THE HOTEL CARTER (with Stephanie Fleischmann), STILL LIFE (with David Javerbaum), and ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS (with Beth Blatt). Her awards include the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation Award, the Constance Klinsky Prize from Second Stage Theatre Company, National Art Song Award, the National Music Theatre Network Director's Choice Award, the Meet the Composer Grant, and the Frederick Loewe Award. Her recent album LOOK FOR ME has been called "beautiful, moving, passionate -- a mix of vulnerability and strength." Jenny has participated in Nautilus' Composer-Librettist Studio, and has had her work performed in their Rough Cuts series.

Role: Producer
Since 1986, NAUTILUS MUSIC-THEATER has provided opportunities for the artistic growth of music-theater artists who create, develop, and produce new operas and other forms of music-theater that are emotionally expansive, dramatically engaging, and spiritually stimulating. We use music-theater as a tool to create enriching experiences for artists and audiences, contributing to the quality and diversity of new American music-theater and supporting the individual and collective growth of the human spirit. We offer professional development programs for writers, composers, directors, and performers; a monthly works-in-progress series called Rough Cuts; occasional fully-staged productions of new work and innovative interpretations of existing pieces; and other artistic endeavors designed to meet the needs of selected communities.

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Nautilus Music-Theater

Alice Unwrapped

Sun., Aug. 2 @ 5:30 p.m.
Tue., Aug. 4 @ 5:30 p.m.
Thu., Aug. 6 @ 8:30 p.m.
Fri., Aug. 7 @ 8:30 p.m.
Sat., Aug. 8 @ 4:00 p.m.

Warning! Adult language

Venue U of M Rarig Center Thrust
For ages 12+
Written by Laura Harrington/Jenny Giering
Web site
genres Solo, Musical theater
subjects Family, Teens
features Original music

Overall rating

User reviews

by Ben Chadwick Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
From the moment the lights go down you are drawn into this gripping story and torn apart as the search for meaning and the grasping for hope force childhood into adulthood. A tour de force performance. Thank you.

A Must See
by Swizzy Wizzlecheeks Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
I don't like musicals, but I heard enough good things about this show to give it a chance. I was not to be disappointed. This is show is not political, but rather an affecting tale of trauma on the homefront. Kudos to everyone involved for really grabbing hold of the audience's heartstrings. An absolute must see.

Alice in Wounded-Land
by Fringivitis Vulgaris Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
Alice's mom came unraveled when dad didn't come back. Alice flails into adolescence with the grief and anger of someone forced to become the parent to both a parent and a sibling. This is not an easy story to tell, but the performer becomes Alice quite believably. The simple piano music fits the story without distracting the viewer. There were people wiping eyes when the house lights went up.

One woman aria
by Dave Romm Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
Alice is the 15-year-old child of a soldier MIA and a mother who's losing it. She's a rebel, wearing combat clothes despite the ostracizing in school and the admonishment of her 8-year-old sister. A one-woman show sung as much as spoken by Jill Anna Ponasik, accompanied on piano by Michael Pierce Donley, the performance is affecting and feels real. When she complains of helmet hair or her sister wails, "I want a normal family", the lot of our fighting forces comes home. Only 35 minutes long, it still deserves four kitties. A Shockwave Radio Theater Review.

Longer reviews with pictures at Baron Dave's LiveJournal and snarky comments on Facebook.

The real thing
by Jim Ahrens Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
This show reminds us that the basis of great theatre is deceptively simple: a person with a story to tell. Jill Anna Ponasik gives a marvelous performance of an effecting work that keeps you deeply involved with this fifteen year old. The music, played and sung beautifully, propels the story perfectly. You need to see this...and you'll be very glad you did.

Moving Performance - Don't Miss
by Christopher Kemp Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Jill Anna Ponasik did an outstanding job drawing the audience in and holding them close for the entire show. You cannot help but be moved by her performance.

by Cole Sarar Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
A beautiful voice, a powerful story, great characterization, and a strong script. As other reviewers have noted, bring your kleenexes.

Good show
by Derek Miller Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
"Alice Unwrapped" grapples with two difficult tropes at once: on one hand, it is about a family dealing with the loss of a loved one--in this case, it is a father deployed to a war-zone and reported missing. On the other hand, it is also about a girl coming to terms with the weird world of adulthood and learning how to navigate within a family. In just about every way, it succeeds.

The center of the story is 15-year-old Alice, whose father is missing, whose mother is slowly breaking down, and whose younger sister is pulling away. Alice's response to this is to pull inward and begin constructing a personal body armor, which she describes in incredible detail in the opening song, and which she takes to wearing everywhere she goes.

Jill Anna Ponasik gives a wonderful performance as Alice Bliss, in both her singing and acting roles. A one-person musical such as this is a hard trick to pull off. Even for this show's relatively short running time, it's very difficult for an actor to keep an audience invested as the piece shifts in and out of music and multiple characters. Ponasik handles this with ease, neatly navigating the exchanges between Alice and her little sister, while simultaneously keeping the singing relevant and urgent. Director Ben Krywosz has done a smart job in staging and pacing, keeping the action of the piece moving forward all the time, despite the confusion and self-doubt rampant in the character.

My only complaint about "Alice Unwrapped" is that the score itself often fails to branch out and explore the depths of Alice's feelings. There is remarkably little shift in tone in the underlying music; it often sounds the same, whether Alice is singing with pride about her home-made body armor or singing with despair over her missing father and slowly-disintegrating household. I would be very interested to find out if there is more orchestration to the piece that simply could not be expressed by the single piano and voice.

If you have ever had to deal with a loved one in the military being deployed into hostile territory (and I have), this show will ring true to you in every way. Inside the relatively simple plot are all the worries, frustrations and growing sense of emptiness that comes from the unknown. If you haven't, then it is a true education, one that you should have.

I may have a stunted sense of empathy
by phillip andrew bennett low Follow this reviewer
Rating 3 kitties
An engaging story, but the setting to music didn't contribute much for me. I also found the performer's reliance on exaggerated tics and mannerisms jarring. Full review available at the Twin Cities Daily Planet.

Beautiful Wonder
by Tim Voss Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Moving. Pure and simple. This deserves a full house. Do not miss.

by Richard Shields Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
I've been to 20 plus shows so far and in terms of moving me to tears this was the one. This show touches your soul with a story that has a reality base to it. Jill carries herself well and her voice fits her material. If you want a show that touches you but leaves you with hope see this one.

Tour de Force
by Alan Kagan Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
An absolutely perfect blend of music and theater in a dramatic one-person tour-de-force expressing the effects of the current war on an American teenager. Jill Anna Ponasik, as the fifteen year-old Alice, fulfilled the demanding role in every way possible, acting, singing and speaking. The fine stage directing touch of Nautilus director Ben Krywosz is evident. A great libretto text by Laura Harrington, although the song rhyming was not always necessary. Solid music by Jenny Giering.

Touching, poignant -- and over too soon
by Brigitta Smith Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
This performance truly left me wanting more. Jill Anna Ponasik painted a realistic, touching portrait of a torn family held together by a girl in turmoil. The music will have you enthralled, and although I'd like to have seen a bit more vocal range, it doesn't disappoint.

Left Me Wanting Just A Little More
by Sid Solomon Follow this reviewer
Rating 3 kitties
A solid showing by Nautilus Music-Theater. It's a moving story, beautifully sung (and accompanied), but with a score that I had a hard time getting behind. I hoped for a bit more melodic variety to help differentiate the content of the various scenes. All in all, however, it's a production well worth seeing.

Bring Kleenex to Share
by David Trudeau Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
The high quality we expect from Nautilus in Fringe (Meditations on Arion, John and Jen, etc.). This Musical story of a teen whose Father is absent - on duty in Iraq and MIA. Alice parents her younger sis while Mom breaks down. This is so touching. You will cry - but you will also laugh at the moments on tender humor. A must see. If you or anyone you know ever served in the Armed Forces Alice will make you feel pride and empathy for all the brave families who give up their Moms and Dads and Sons and Daughters to the uncertainties of war time service. The music and the presentation are standing ovation dynamite.

Tour de Force
by Janet Fried Follow this reviewer
Rating 4 kitties
One expects top notch professionalism from the Nautilus Music Theater and this production does not disappoint. JILL ANNA PONASIK. does a tour de force one woman show in partnership with pianist MICHAEL PEARCE DONLEY. It is exciting to find this unexpected story for music theater, an intimate look at an emotional journey of today -- military families, fear, isee solation, responsibility, being asked to grow up too soon. Jill Anna's Alice is funny, sad, angry, tender. The music worked best for me as underscoring, highlighting Jill Anna's many fine dramatic turns. A must see. 4 kitties

Don't miss this show
by Marilyn Swanson Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
Alice was 15 when her father went to Iraq. I was 60 when my son went to Iraq, and I could sympathize with Alice's emotional roller coaster. Jill Anna Ponasik's embodiment of Alice is powerful, gut-wrenching.

Alice Unwrapped.
by Joan Calof Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
This show is perfection. The writing, the music the voice and the acting ability of Jill Anna , the accompanist, combine into a whole that is more than the sum of its parts. This touching timely and poignant musical was a peak Fringe experience for me.

deserves SIX kitties!
by Dan Pinkerton Follow this reviewer
Rating 5 kitties
This is probably the most moving show I've seen in eight years of Fringing. It's a beautifully written musical about Alice, a 9th-grade girl whose father has been MIA for a year and is probably dead, and who is attempting to hold her family and herself together. Jill Anna performs the material perfectly --- it's as if the piece was written for her. She is completely convincing in the three roles of Alice, her 9-year-old sister, and their mother. The show is hugely relevant, is completely heartbreaking, and yet holds out a glimmer of unforced hope at the end.

One show like this makes the entire $150 UltraPass worth it. Go.

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