Holly Bender is a Bright-Eyed Alice in Caltech Play

Friday, February 20, 2015 | 7:08 pm


In the play “Alice Through The Wormhole” presented by Caltech Theater Lab, Alice is a marionette-loving spintronics whiz who is taken into the underbelly of a major science institute. There, she meets the oddest and trippiest of characters like Queen of Funding and Dark Prince of Future Science, and continues her scientific pursuits against all odds. Alice is lost in the academic labyrinthine, and the question the play asks is: will she be able to balance her love for science and her creative passions?

In real life, the girl playing Alice is equally brilliant, a science-slash-arts girl who works in optical engineering one minute and sings for a band the next. Her name is Holly Bender, whose science background makes her ideal for the role in this original adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass.”

“I work at the Jet Propulsion Lab which is the NASA Center here Pasadena. I’ve been working there for about eight years and I’m an optical engineer there. I work on the design and alignment of different imaging systems, basically creating these 3D maps to assess vegetation and rain forests,” said Bender.

When not working on an imaging spectrometer, Bender sings for jazz band Jazz Propulsion Band and Verdugo Swing Society, the official big band of Glendale.

Jet Propulsion Lab is part of the Caltech community, so Bender’s participation in Caltech Theater Lab isn’t completely new. She was part of another major Caltech play, “Little Shop of Horrors” where she played Audrey.

“The Caltech Theater Lab is a new initiative, driven by the need to investigate the complex identity of scientists, their research passions and the public conversation around deep issues that affect the planet, our community and our very survival,” says Brian Brophy, the play’s director”

Now what does she think about playing the role of this modern-day, university-going Alice whose scientific and artistic inclinations sound a lot like hers?

I think with Alice, she still is struggling with whether she can be taken seriously as a young woman in science and still pursue her hobbies which [might sound] artistically silly. She’s multi-faceted, and I think that¹s what’s so important about her,” said Bender.

The musical features original music and lyrics by Brenda Varda. Varda shares, that despite the tough questions the musical poses, in the end, this is a satirical comedy and “the community will recognize the amusement through this subconscious land of desires and worries and hopes!”

“Alice Through the Wormhole” will have a star-studded opening night premiere gala on Friday, February 20 at 8:00 p.m., with more shows on Friday, February 21st at 8:00 p.m., Saturday shows will be on Feb. 21 and 28 at 8:00 p.m., and Sundays February 22 and March 1 at 2:30 p.m. in Ramo Auditorium at the Caltech campus.

To purchase tickets, call (626) 395-4652. Ticket prices are $5 for Caltech students, and $9 for other students, seniors, Caltech and JPL staff, and faculty. General admission is $8.

Ramo Auditorium is located at 1200 E. Del Mar Blvd., in Pasadena.

For more information, call Cindy de Mesa at (626) 395-3295 or email Brian Brophy at brophy@caltech.edu, or visit www.tacit.caltech.edu.


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