Alice in Wonderland at the Freedom Theatre in Jenin
A stage adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is currently running at The Freedom Theater in the city of Jenin on the Northern West Bank of the Palestinian Territories.
The show is being co-directed by Isreali Palestinian actor, director, and activist Juliano Mer-Khamis and by Zoe Lafferty, a 24-year old director from London. Reviews and interviews on the websites of Al Arabiya and The Guardian say that the technically dazzling show is being performed to sell-out audiences.
Interestingly, although the connection is not made, the plot described seems to follow Tim Burton’s adaptation: Alice discovers Wonderland while fleeing a forced engagement, and returns home newly empowered to make her own choices. Excerpts featured in the YouTube trailer (to the soundtrack of Blondie’s “One Way or Another”) suggest the production owes a debt to an even more unlikely source – The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
It’s been described by England cricketer Graeme Swann as “the worst outfit ever seen on a tennis court,” but Venus Williams claims the dress was “inspired by Alice in Wonderland.” Members of the LCSNA, what’s your verdict? Off with her head? Or does she deserve an elegant thimble?
The yellow lattice top, print skirt, and flesh colored leggings don’t exactly ring any Wonderland bells for me, but in a post-match interview Williams offered the following explanation:
Yeah, don’t laugh. But it’s kind of about a surprise, because when Alice goes down the hole, the rabbit hole, she finds all these things that are so surprising.
This outfit is about having a surprise in tennis a dress, and kind of, you know, showing some skin and then just having a print. Prints don’t happen that often in tennis. So it’s called the Wonderland dress. It was fun.
Linguist Robert Beard (the author of The 100 Most Beautiful Words in English, which I’ve heard is a bit prejudiced against the Anglo-Saxon) complains in CNN’s 2010 Year in Review that his sacred English Language took another “fresh beating” this year, discussing the prevalence of new portmanteau words.
New words and constructions like “Obamacare,” “WikiLeaks,” “lamestream,” “shovel-ready,” “sexting,” and many others like them were uttered or typed and in minutes spread across the globe.
Makes one wonder: Have we been beating English into a new shape, or just beating it up? There is, after all, a difference between the games we play with new words, which can be amusing — even though they often get out of hand — and the more subtle changes that often lead to confusion and offensiveness.
Beard then goes on to cite Carroll and relay the modern political history of portmanteau malapropisms:
Coined by Lewis Carroll, the term “portmanteau word” is one that carries two words inside itself. Portmanteaus may simply be funny games we play with words or errors that we should avoid.
When we speak, we go to our mental dictionaries for the right words. If we find two words with similar meanings or pronunciations, we have to make a split-second choice of which to use. President George W. Bush’s mind once found itself having to choose between “miscalculated” and “underestimated” as he spoke, but failed to reach a decision in time, so he uttered “misunderestimated”.
Sarah Palin’s famous portmanteau “refudiate” is similar. “Refudiate” is a speech error that many others before her have made by blending “refute” and “repudiate.” That it has been around for ages but has yet to make it into a dictionary tells us that it is a speech error we should stop discussing and let pass for what it is: a funny but erroneous portmanteau.
Portmanteaus may be “funny games” (I’ll take that as a compliment), and annoying ones can make it into mainstream parlance quickly thanks to new media, but there’s no need to be curmudgeonly about a year which saw many strange and entertaining new coinages. Palin’s defense of her accidental wordsmithing (which was later named 2010 Word of the Year by the New Oxford American Dictionary) was to tweet: “‘Refudiate,’ ‘misunderestimate,’ ‘wee-wee’d up.’ English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!”
There’s an article by Alice Rawsthorn in the Nov. 28th New York Times to complain about how “boring” the design for most of the new apps for the iPad have been: “On an Innovative Device, Apps Lacking Imagination.”
However! Atomic Antelope’s beautiful and creative Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland popup e-book is singled out as one of her “honorable exceptions,” along with a few magazine apps like The New Yorker and Wired.
As for books, children’s titles are leading the way with apps that include animated illustrations, often activated by the reader. My favorites are the fabulously surreal ones in “Alice for the iPad,” Atomic Antelope’s interactive version of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” and Oceanhouse Media’s “Dr. Seuss” apps. Kids can “play” the Dr. Seuss stories like movies — saving you from reading the same one again and again. Each word is highlighted when it is spoken on the soundtrack.
There has been less experimentation for grown-ups. Though the British publishing house Fourth Estate has produced an intriguing app based on the mathematician Marcus du Sautoy’s book “The Num8er My5teries.” Rather than replicate the book, it complements it by enabling the reader to participate in animated mathematical puzzles featuring a cartoon version of Mr. Sautoy.
Cartoonist Marin Rowson, contributor to U.K. newspaper the Guardian, has drawn possibly the scariest Alice/Palin yet. It appeared on Sunday, October 31 on the Guardian website under the heading “Martin Rowson on a tea-party at the US midterms.” This time we seem to have a Murdoch Mad Hatter stuffing an Obama Dormouse into the teapot while U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron peers out of his pocket – and that is definitely Glenn Beck in the high chair – but I can’t place the two-headed March Hare. Any guesses?
How many more tea-party cartoons can we expect? Check out our Political Cartoons page if you need a reminder of the ways Wonderland was co-opted into political parody in the pre-tea-party world.
Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert‘s march on Washington, D.C., yesterday, the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, was estimated to be about 250,000 sane people strong (approximately triple the headcount at Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor rally in August, which yesterday’s event was parodying.) Stewart requested attendees to bring pro-sanity signs, and suggestedfor example “I Disagree With You, But I’m Pretty Sure You’re Not Hitler” and “I am not afraid of Muslims / Tea Partiers / Socialists / Immigrants / Gun Owners / Gays … But I Am Scared of Spiders.”
The New York Timestoday is running an obituary under the sing-songy heading “Leigh Van Valen, Evolution Revolutionary, Dies at 76.”
The evolutionary biologist Leigh Van Valen’s eccentricities were legend far beyond the University of Chicago, where brilliant and idiosyncratic professors rule. He named 20 fossil mammals he had discovered after characters in J. R. R. Tolkien’s fiction, and his most famous hypothesis — among the most cited in the literature of evolution — was named for the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass.”
Dr. Van Valen’s metaphor to describe this idea came from the Red Queen in Carroll’s “Looking Glass.” In the book, Alice complains that she is exhausted from running, only to find she is still under the tree where she started.
The Red Queen answers: “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.”
Read the article (including the explanation of the theory, which I ellipsed out of the excerpt) here.
Politicians are frequently accused of dwelling in an “Alice in Wonderland world” but few would deliberately claim the address. Not so the mayor of Aliso Viejo in Orange County who declared “Aliso is Wonderland” in his annual State of the City address on Wednesday night. In what the Orange County Register describes as “a big departure from past State of the City speeches,” Mayor Phillip Tsunoda, welcomed City dignitaries and guests before talking with a voiced-over Johnny Depp/Mad Hatter. Guests then posed for pictures with various Wonderland characters.
Mayor Phillip Tsunoda, left, and others accompanied by a mad march hatter. Photo credit: Oliver Yu
Rebecca Mead’s article about the play Gatz, in the September 27th, 2010, issue of The New Yorker, had a nice parenthetical quip in re Alice adaptations:
[John] Collins [founder of Elevator Repair Service theatre company], who is courtly and subdued in nammer, had directed productions as an undergraduate: his first full-length show, “The Real Mary Ann,” was based on “Alice in Wonderland” and was performed in the basement of Pierson College. (“Every experimental director has to go through an “Alice in Wonderland” thing, and John was very lucky to have gotten his out very early,” James Hannaham, a novelist and journalist who was an early member of the company, says.)
Another talented young thespian currently scratching that itch is Yale University’s Oren Stevens, class of 2011. As reported in the Yale Daily News last week:
Starting October 7 to 9, Stevens — a longtime participant in the Yale Dramat with more than a dozen credits under his belt — will be seeing his piece, “Phantomwise,” be produced on the stage of the legendary Yale Repertory Theatre. The play is an official Dramat production and is the second student-written play to get the Dramat’s support in recent memory, after George’s “Commandments” was produced last spring.
“Phantomwise” follows the story of Alice Liddell, the English beauty who was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” The play weaves together the true story of Liddell’s life with the children’s classic tale, traveling between fantasy and reality.
If you know of (or attend) Carroll-themed performances: let us know!