Idyllwild Arts Academy seniors Miguel Soto (music) and Caroline “Cari” Quigley (theater) are helping Idyllwild School students produce the Disney musical “Alice in Wonderland.” They are assisting Production Director Heather Reba, wife of IAA Music Chair Chris Reba, current musical theater instructor at IAA, and former theater instructor at the University of New Haven in mounting the musical “from scratch” — making all costumes, constructing all scenery and spending virtually no money to produce the show.

Reba has performed with Sacramento’s Music Circus, with San Diego’s Starlight Musical Theatre and will perform this summer in the musical “Titanic” with Moonlight Stage Productions in Vista. “I wanted to offer the children of Idyllwild a quality theatrical experience and with Buzz’s [Holmes] help, along with Miguel and Cari, we have been able to make that happen,” she said. “It’s been a great experience, which will hopefully continue next year.”

Said Soto, “’We’re doing this to show that art can be made available without spending [large amounts] of money — putting on this musical with the intention of keeping it inexpensive and available to all.”

Cari Quigley, Idyllwild Arts theater major, takes a break from set painting for the Idyllwild School musical “Alice in Wonderland.”Photo courtesy Miguel Soto
Cari Quigley, Idyllwild Arts theater major, takes a break from set painting for the Idyllwild School musical “Alice in Wonderland.” Photo courtesy Miguel Soto

Soto and Quigley, with highly demanding academic and art schedules at IAA, are volunteering each week with Idyllwild School students to fulfill their “Art in Society Capstone Project,” a recently added credential distinction for graduating seniors. The Art in Society program seeks to educate IAA students about their responsibilities to use their art careers to make positive contributions to society. It is driven by the students and the school administration who believe that art has transformative power to create beneficial social change. Students are encouraged to complete projects that cultivate cross-cultural understanding, focus on social justice issues, or address how art relates to the human condition and society.

To work with young elementary and middle school students was a good fit for both Soto and Quigley. Said Soto, “I love to work with younger children. I’m the oldest of my siblings and all my cousins. I produce our family Christmas show, with everyone involved. I like the idea of making art available to kids.”

Quigley began volunteering with the IS smARTS program in her sophomore year. “Public schools have defunded art education,” she said. “That’s why I wanted to share my training and passion for art in assisting in the smARTS program at Idyllwild School. I believe arts education is so important for everyone. I wanted to do something with kids and make sure they get that nourishment that art education gives.

“This is what I want to do — passing it on to kids, whether through performing or teaching. Working with these kids, I see them giving all their effort and focus to being part of this show. They jump in and work together. It’s all so collaborative.”

Said Soto, “The students have been so helpful with some really great ideas.” Asked about what’s important, the rehearsal and production phase or the performance itself, he said, “I’ve always said it’s the journey, not the destination. Yes, it’s been tight with our own school schedules, but it has been a wonderful experience.”

To successfully complete the IAA Arts and Society program and graduate with a distinction in global arts, action and social entrepreneurship, students are required to complete a senior Capstone Project, have a 3.0 GPA at time of graduation, have demonstrated leadership, attend at least 75 percent of all Art in Society seminars at IAA, complete 10 hours of qualifying service or social action oriented activity over the summer and complete at least one community service activity.

“Alice in Wonderland” plays at 6 p.m. Friday, May 13, and 1 p.m. Saturday, May 14, in the Idyllwild School gymnasium. Tickets are available at the door, cash only, at $10 for adults, $5 for students and $15 for adults for both performances.