Interview with Lookingglass Alice actresses Markita Prescott and Patrice Covington
During the second week of rehearsal, dramaturg Rebecca Adelsheim sat down with actresses Markita Prescott, who plays Alice, and Patrice Covington, who plays the Red Queen (and other roles), to unpack some of their thoughts on Lookingglass Alice. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Do you remember what your first encounter was with the story of Alice in Wonderland?
Patrice: That movie with the real people came out a few years after I was born, so
I remember watching that. I never got into the cartoon version, I don’t really remember connecting to it like I did with the rest of Saturday morning cartoons or Disney movies. But now that I’m in this story I’m wondering what the difference was in my psyche as a young lady that didn’t connect to it.
Markita: My first encounter with the story had to be as a kid seeing a compilation of different Disney films, it may have been
like a special. I remember seeing those character images. But just like Patrice I didn’t grow up on this film the same way that I grew up on The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Cinderella. And those are films that I can recite all the lines.
I would say with this show, I’m starting to get to know these beloved characters with the imagery we have today.
What about the story is resonating with you today? How are you locating yourselves inside of your characters?
Markita: I would definitely say that it is Alice and this coming-of-age story. There is so much of me in Alice. I came up as an only child. In school being kind of awkward—
I was a young actress, and at the time I was in a school where I wasn’t with other artists. And it was hard to find real friends. I feel like Alice’s journey is in that very same way, just trying to make friends, trying to find her footing, while at the same time trying to be a kid and be her kind of normal. There is a strong familiarity that I have with this Alice from beginning to end.
Patrice: Think about all of the Disney queens: they never really taught lessons, they are always evil. If you think about Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid; literally all of them are villains, women taking down other women. With our version it’s clear that the women are trying to help Alice become a queen. So that definitely is sticking with me.
When I think about Red Queen, she’s a teacher, she’s an inspire-er, she’s been through some stuff, that’s how she knows. I’ve been through a lot in my childhood and in my adult life that I now share with people to let them know that they can still be a queen. Look at the things that I’ve been blessed to do, look how I walk down the street and carry myself regardless of the things I’ve had to go through in life. Since earlier this year, I’ve developed a class where I travel the country teaching young children; and I have a special class for young women, little girls. I’ve started a scholarship foundation for young women. I’m always trying to show them, relate to them, that there is forward movement. It can motivate and inspire people. I definitely see that as something the Red Queen can relate to.
In our production, we are focusing on the thread of Alice becoming a queen. Can you talk about what attracts you to that narrative?
Markita: We’re talking about this young Black girl who is coming into her own as a young woman. The meaning of who we are today, just coming into our own as Black women today has turned into a strong part of our modern day culture and it is about really embracing who we are. In all of our glory.
Patrice: As far as this “queen” phenomenon right now: me and my girlfriends, we greet each other with “queen”. That’s just how we speak to each other now to remind each other that we are that. On this journey, Alice encounters so many things that could throw her off of her throne. And we’re here to remind her, “girlfriend pull up, you’re better than, you have to walk with your head all the way high. Don’t forget who you are, don’t forget what you came here to do.” Hopefully, that message of empowerment can really come through.
What do you hope audiences find in this modern retelling of these classic Victorian stories?
Patrice: My hope is that it becomes less about the fact that we are Black and it becomes an American story that happens to be told by some Black people. Something that people can relate to. Something that doesn’t matter what race, culture, creed, background, whatever—everyone can relate to it. Everyone can be changed and inspired by it. Touched by it.
Markita: I mean, I love that this is a story for us all. No matter the color of your skin, all little girls have imaginations—when it’s recess we all go to Wonderland. It just so happens
that it’s a Black girl with a Black queen, oh my goodness. And that’s awesome, because I can only imagine, as a kid, coming to see this show, what it would mean to see this Black Alice. I would be so hyped, immediately, because representation is so important.
Patrice: I love that people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds are part of this show. I just love that people are finally, about time, opening up.
What’s one thing you’re excited for in the rest of your time at Baltimore Center Stage?
Markita: I can’t wait for us to do our first run through of the show. This is the most challenging role I’ve ever had to play, in every sense of the word.
And as an actor, you want an audience, so I’m excited to see what the audience has to bring. They’re going to be part of the show —literally—so there’s that excitement.
Patrice: I’m looking forward to seeing how we all develop together. Doing a show eight times a week; you develop quickly, because you literally are creating every single night. You get a chance to try something new every single night. And we’ve only just now started our second week and we’ve only just scratched the surface of developing. So I’m very excited about figuring it out. What else is Red Queen? When I really know what the words mean and I am able to look in Alice’s eyes and really mean what I’m talking about, I look forward to that.
To learn more about Patrice’s classes, visit TheGalaxyMethod.com.