A boat, beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July—

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear—

Long has paled that sunny sky;
Echoes fade and memories die;
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die

Ever drifting down the stream—
Lingering in the golden gleam—
Life, what is it but a dream?

—Lewis Carroll

Alice and the Pack of Cards by Arthur Rackham

I have never felt an overwhelming attraction to Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking-Glass. I saw the Disney mash-up and remember pieces of it: a blond in a blue dress, a purple cat, cute hedgehogs. I saw Lookingglass Alice in Chicago, where it became a fun circus-piece with a thinned-out narrative. I was only moderately intrigued by the previews for the new Tim Burton version. And yet I find myself reading Carroll’s books for the first time (putting Sherlock Holmes on hold) because one of our second-years is creating a movement/music/theatrical something and she needs a dramaturg/writer.

I am captivated by the nonsense and, contrariwise, the darkness of these tales. The dream and the fever-dream. Of course I love the wordplay throughout. I am also hooked by helping to figure out how we make our take different. How is it NOT Alice in Wonderland, Babes in Toyland, The Wizard of Oz, The Matrix, Pan’s Labyrinth. What is the story that takes elements from these without rehashing the same idea? My collaborator, Marisa’s, concept is grounded in the idea that Alice’s wonderland is psychological. Just as I found myself doing for Isaac, the little boy in Demons, I find myself writing a journal from Alice’s perspective. What is Alice’s distorted perspective of the world? How is it different from ours? From her parents?

I am getting a late start in this, having joined the project well after Marisa and the actors. I don’t need to do a lot of research. My dad taught me during Demons that what I was calling psychosis was more of a metaphor for psychosis as my characters weren’t suffering from any one diagnosable disorder. Starting with this knowledge this time is freeing and a time saver.  I am not interested in what Alice has, and I don’t want the audience to be either. My Alice’s psychosis is more of a unappreciated superpower. The research I am interested in is The Icarus Project, something I have only heard about and even as I link this I have not read their site. At the heart of what we are creating isn’t the question, To drug or not to drug. It is, How do we listen and understand one another?

One thought on “whataboutwhatALICEsaw

  1. A tacky relic from a youth I’m still misspending: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_McGee%27s_Alice

    The guy who designed Doom and Quake decided to take the Alice in Wonderland story and set it within a tormented, asylum-bound Alice’s imagination. Technically she’s fighting her own inner demons, but since that makes for a lousy video game (“we’re going to beat this level’s boss through the power of self-affirmation!”) you hack up their physical manifestations instead.

    Not exactly what you’re writing about–not even really that close–but close enough that I was reminded of a game I played a decade ago.

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