01/27/13 — Benefit for needy animals recasts 'Alice in Wonderland' theme locally

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Benefit for needy animals recasts 'Alice in Wonderland' theme locally

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 27, 2013 1:50 AM

Streetscape not only changed the face of downtown Goldsboro -- it apparently uncovered at least one rabbit hole.

And a local boy and girl and other performers will share the story of that journey -- and raise funds for needy animals at the same time -- this spring.

Heritage Dance Foundation, in connection with Ballroom Barks, will present "Animals in Wonderland" March 30 at 2 and 7 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Wayne County Adoption and Education Center and the Wayne County Humane Society.

Tickets will be $15 for children 12 and under and $25 for adults. For ticket information, call 919-583-8432 or go to the Paramount Theatre Ticket Office at www.goldsboroparamount.com.

The story is not your traditional trip to Wonderland, said Dr. Charles Zwerling, owner of Top Hat Studio, who penned the play.

"It is a musical variety comedy," he said. "It was written for both kids and adults and has a lot of political satire. I am fair. I zing everyone."

The group hopes to not only entertain, but to educate -- highlighting the concerns that rescue groups and the animals they care for face.

"We are hoping to enhance the awareness of the problem with the animals and do some good, raise some food, get some fencing, medicine, surgical equipment," he said. "Whatever they need, we are going to be there to help them."

The day's events will begin with a parade -- not just rabbits with pocketwatches, but with rescue animals.

It will be Goldsboro's very first Easter Parade, Zwerling said. The parade will be short, starting at City Hall and ending at the Paramount.

"It is the same day somewhere between 10 a.m. and noon on March 30. The theme is Easter, but a deeper theme is that it is for the animals."

Those who attend will be able to make a small donation and to get their picture taken with a famous rabbit, while anyone is invited to participate in the other events of the day including an Easter egg hunt, an Easter bonnet contest and a prettiest Easter doll pageant.

The idea is to have fun, Zwerling said.

"I have already hired the trolley people for the horse rides," he said. "We hope to have also a lot of vendors there. So if you have an animal, and you just want to have fun, and maybe buy some unusual things, there will be all of these street vendors. It is going to be a big celebration kind of thing."

Event organizer Debby Grady said the show and parade's theme might be whimsical, but the needs it will address are real.

"The animal shelter currently does not have a run, a fenced-in area, for dogs to be let out to run," she said. "The only way a dog can be let out is if a staff member takes them. We feel that is a very good project, something that will really be used.

"The other project that we are funding for the shelter is helping with spaying and neutering costs because that is one of their biggest expenses, and they never have enough money. It is astronomical the number of animals that are brought into that shelter."

Spaying and neutering are critical in helping get the animals adopted, Mrs. Grady said.

And as if that were not enough, organizers are also hoping to bring in food and monetary donations for the Humane Society's food pantry, which offers assistance to those who are struggling to feed their pets.

Mrs. Grady says she hopes the event will become an annual tradition.

"We hope to do this annually and next year's show would have a different title for the show, but the whole project will be called 'Ballroom Barks' each year."

Mrs. Grady said the event will also highlight the performing arts.

"Many of the characters that will be in this production, many will be local business people, our Top Hat Dancers. Encore, a singing group, will be in it," Mrs. Grady said. "We have Miss North Carolina Hailey Best performing. We just have a lot of good folks in it."

Zwerling said when he was contemplating what to do, he happened to think about "Alice in Wonderland," but with animals.

"I just didn't want to copy it," he said. "I used some of the format that Lewis Carroll came up with, but then I went off in my weird mind and now it is a satirical comedy. It is sort about a boy and young girl, whose name, by the way, is Lacy. The boy is named Charles, and through the story are historical references. These are not randomly chosen names. It is all about Goldsboro. With all the work on Streetscape, the kids get lost off of Center Street and fall into a rabbit hole.

"The boy doesn't like animals and thinks they are stupid, smell, while the young girl loves them. He goes through a catharsis and at the end he loves animals. So there is sort of a moral to the story and a little humor along the way. We put the dancing in, the singing. There will be some special effects."

Many of the characters will be in animal costumes. And if you listen closely, you will find out what happened to the famous hanging chads from the 2000 election.

Adults will get and enjoy the satire, while the children will enjoy all of the animal costumes, Mrs. Grady said.

For more information about the event, contact Mrs. Grady at debbiegrady@att.net or call 919-222-8320. For parade information, contact Alexis Zwerling 919-736-3937.