Mad as a Hatter

. March 31, 2019.
Photo credit: Acom Photos
Photo credit: Acom Photos

A search for the original

Origin stories, for superheroes, famous people and more, have always been popular in the movie and TV business, but book characters rarely get the same treatment. Local actor, director and playwright Michael Herman’s new play, “Mad as a Hatter”, produced by the Roustabout Theatre Troupe from April 4th-20th at the YES space in Ypsilanti, explores the life of young Charles Dodgson, or Lewis Carroll, and his interesting relationship with eccentric cabinet-maker and inventor Theophilius Carter, who would provide the inspiration for Carroll’s character the Mad Hatter.

Alice in her 20’s

“I have been obsessed with Alice in Wonderland since I saw the animated movie with my third-grade art class”, said Herman. “There is just something so outrageously playful about that world to me. Talking flowers, a smiling cat, playing cards that guard an angry queen. It’s mysterious and curious and charming.”

Besides the relationship between Dodgson and Carter, Herman was interested in showing a different side of the story’s title character. “I wanted to explore Alice as a 20-something. I’ve seen Alice as a child, and even as an old woman, but I’ve never seen Alice struggling with growing up. I imagine it would have been so difficult for her, and I wanted this play to be a love letter to that moment in her life.”

World of Roustabout Theatre

Roustabout Theatre Troupe has been steadily making a name for themselves in the Michigan theatre scene, and instead of traveling from space to space to do their shows, they’re finally putting down roots in the YES Space in Ypsilanti. Herman has worked with the company as both an actor and a director – he starred as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde last year in their production of the same name – and for him, there was something special about seeing his work being brought to life by people he cares about. “At the end of the day, if you’re working with people that you love, you’re not just ‘putting up a show’, you’re building a world,” he said.

Of course, for the playwright, building the world of the play means relinquishing a certain amount of control over it, and Herman acknowledged that this can be a nerve-wracking process. “A writer has to let go of a script in the rehearsal process”, he said. “After hundreds of hours perfecting each comma and dotting each i, you just give it up. I don’t always like it, but it’s nothing short of magical every time.”

While the process of letting his work fall into the hands of the actors, designers and directors is a slightly daunting one, Herman is excited to see how audiences react to the show.

“When the audience walks out of the theatre, I want them to think up an impossible thing. I want them to tell a joke to their children. I want them to laugh in public. To giggle for too long. I want them to remember why they ran outside to play. I am overjoyed to share a piece of Wonderland with all of you.”

“Mad as a Hatter” plays April 4th-20th at the YES Space,
8 North Washington, Ypsilanti. For tickets and more information, please visit www.roustabouttheatre.com.

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