Huntington, Ind.— The house lights are up and the seats are empty. There are no costumes and the set is not yet complete, but still McNair Wilson is challenging his cast to make things come alive, even if it is just rehearsal. “The Mack Truck Organization is doing driving demonstrations during those gaps in the lines. Speed things up,” he says with a smile, walking in between and around the cast as they act out the opening scene.
“Of the many things I know about theatre, when you do a technical rehearsal there’s a tendency not to work on character. There is never a time when you don’t want to be performing. Your body doesn’t forget,” Wilson says to his cast of Huntington College students.
His rendition of Alice in Wonderland, which will be performed at Huntington College April 15-17, is not literal. A master of imagination, Wilson presents the characters not merely as characters but as suggestions of characters. This, he believes, will allow the cast and audience to maximize the use of their imagination.
Wilson’s ties to Huntington College date back to the 1970’s when he first met Donald Rainbow, former professor of theatre at Huntington College, as a guest artist at Bethel College (Minn.). Wilson was re-introduced to Rainbow in the 1990’s and was invited to be the guest director of Tartuffe in 1999. He was again asked come to HC as guest director for the 2003-04 academic year, and accepted based on his previous “great” experience at HC.
“Huntington College does more plays than institutions twice its size,” Wilson says. “They are much more ambitious than big-time colleges.”
In the future, Wilson would like to try to be on a college campus as an artist-in-residence every other year. “College may be the last chance to hold on to one of the last shreds of imagination people have.”
Wilson suggests that the first five years after college is the time to do something “you really, really want to do.” He says your 20’s is the time to get a job that pays the rent and health insurance on the side and to unleash your creativity doing something you are truly good at.
In his early 20’s, Wilson traveled to 24 countries in seven months with a gospel team. He and three friends raised their own support to present programs at colleges, factories, street corners and churches all over Europe.
Wilson began acting at age 13 and wrote his first one-man play The Fifth Gospel at 19, which he would earn a living on for the early part of his career with over 1500 presentations.
When he was 16, he and his youth pastor produced a live television entertainment show, “The Latest Thing.” It was one hour of jokes and skits along with a question and answer session with a prominent figure of the community. During that time, Wilson stretched his legs as a writer, designer and performer.
Wilson is a member of the National Board of Christians and Theatre Arts and states he does not adhere to the title of a “Christian performer.”
“I don’t use Christian as an adjective. Christian is a noun,” Wilson says. “I am a Christian who is an artist. What I do is art. How I live my life is with a Christian world view and that affects choices I make as to what I do and how I do it.”
Originally born in Minneapolis, Minn., Wilson now resides in San Francisco, Calif., and has worked professionally as actor, director, teacher, playwright, Disney Imagineer, coach to public speakers and corporate executives, author, cartoonist, magician, and ventriloquist. He has also been featured in Ken Davis and Friends, a nationally renowned comedy show.
The Huntington College Theatre Department will present Alice in Wonderland, a play adapted from Lewis Carroll’s classic novel, on April 15, 16, and 17. It will take place in the Zurcher Auditorium of the Merillat Centre for the Arts at 7:30 p.m., each night. There will also be an additional matinee performance on Saturday, April 17, at 2 p.m. The public is cordially invited to attend. Admission in the form of reserved seating will be $7 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. For more ticket information or to make reservations, please contact the Merillat Centre Box Office at (260) 359-4261 or www.huntington.edu/mca.
Huntington College is a comprehensive Christian college of the liberal arts offering graduate and undergraduate programs in more than 60 academic concentrations. USNews & World Report ranks Huntington among the top comprehensive colleges in the Midwest. Founded in 1897 by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Huntington College is located on a contemporary, lakeside campus in Huntington, Indiana. The College is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).
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