Imagine the scene in the gallery: on a giant screen, you watch Alice leap off a book and lead you into Wonderland. Slowly you realize that the animation you are watching is somehow watching you—and copying your every move. As the artist, Ruth Sergel, describes it: “In front of the looking glass, fantasy and reality merge as Alice fluidly mirrors the viewer’s every move.” The interactive work is currently being exhibited at Multimedier Schlachthof in Berlin, Germany.
Ruth Sergel is an American artist, activist, and “interactive technology designer” whose film and performance work has appeared at MOMA in New York, and in galleries around Europe. More information about “Alice in Berlin” can be found on Sergel’s website, Street Pictures, where there is also a video showing visitors interacting with Alice.
Attention all Colorado Carrollians: One Night Stand Theater will be presenting “One Night Stand in Wonderland,” an evening of theatrical readings and plays about Lewis Carroll and his creations, on Sunday, April 7, 7:00 p.m. at the Vintage Theatre, in Old Downtown Aurora.
The performance features stories and nonsense poetry from “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass,” as well as short plays and adaptations inspired by Alice in Wonderland by local playwrights Bill Thompson and Dave Brandl.
“Our goal for the evening is to travel through the humorous, twisted logic of the two Alice books and make stops along the way with the interesting characters she encounters,” says One Night Stand Theater artistic director James O’Leary. “In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll created a multi-faceted world, and we hope to explore some of the many layers of that world and allow the characters to come to life through the talents of our actors.”
Lewis Carroll came from a large family, and got his start in children’s entertainment and storytelling by writing for and staging plays with his siblings. One surviving example is the puppet play La Guida di Bragia, dating from the early 1850′s. The LCSNA published the text in 2007 with illustrations by Jonathan Dixon - available here for $25. Dixon also spoke at the LCSNA’s Spring 2009 meetingin Santa Fe, followed by a marionette performance staged by Theaterwork’s artistic director David Olson. Good Times! “Together with LCSNA’s multi-talented Jonathan Dixon, Olson talked about the marionette play we would see in the evening: how children’s dolls, rescued from the local Goodwill store, were turned into doll puppets representing the characters of Mooney, Spooney, Sophonisba, and her husband Orlando.” Here’s a photo:
Image from the Table of Contents for the Summer 2012 Art Doll Quarterly
This year, more American puppeteers have tackled La Guida di Bragia. Diane Lewis, who works at the Theatre Arts Department at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California, collaborated with her students to create marionettes for the play, and they have been featured in the Summer 2012 edition of Art Doll Quarterly. The article “Characters Behind the Curtain: Instructor Offers History along with the Magic of the Puppet,” by Mozelle Sukut, included “several large illustrations, and descriptions of Lewis’ techniques, philosophy, research, teaching methods, etc.” (reports Mark Richards of the UK Lewis Carroll Society.) The show was never produced, but the marionettes are very charming.
Mrs. Muddles from La Guida di Bragia, from the website of Monique Rea, mfrartwork.com
A photo of the marionettes from La Guida di Bragia, on display at Mission Viejo’s Arts ALIVE Festival
Aleksandar Antonijevic of the National Ballet of Canada
The National Ballet of Canada is on the move and they are taking Alice with them. Last weekend the company appeared at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles to perform Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon and scored by Joby Talbot. Ecstatic reviews suggest that the production was every bit as successful as the much-lauded North American premiere in Toronto in 2011 and it’s world premier in London earlier in the same year. North Americans will have another chance to see the ballet when it moves to the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C. for performances from January 18 – 27, 2013.
Three thousand miles to the north west, the Connecticut Ballet recently performed an Alice in Wonderland aimed more squarely at children. The show, which included spoken narration by artistic director Brett Raphael, was performed once in Stamford and once in Harvard. The Harvard production, held at the Aetna Theater, part of the Wadsworth Atheneum, was just one in a series of ballets for families; Barbar the Elephant & Jungle Tales and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer will follow early next year.
The Cincinnati Ballet present Septime Webre’s ALICE
Meanwhile the Cincinnati Ballet has had the great good fortune to present the regional premiere of Septime Webre’s ALICE (in wonderland) from October 26 to 28. Matthew Pierce’s score was performed by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. After a quick trip to the dry-cleaners, Liz Vandal’s outrageous costumes should now be on a plane heading south as Webre’s creation will next be performed by Ballet Hawaii in August 2013.
If you feel your day would benefit from a touch of ballet this very minute, check out the video below – it is an excerpt from the London premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, performed at Covent Garden. You know you are in Wonderland when a ballerina gets to eat jam tarts on stage.
If you are wondering what you could do this weekend that might bring a little more Wonderland into your life, permit us to offer the following suggestions:
If you live in New York, you could try to get last minute tickets to Then She Fell, a creepy trip down the rabbit hole staged in an abandoned hospital and described by the New York Post as “a fiendishly clever immersive theater piece.” If the show is all sold out, you could console yourself by booking tickets to AliceGraceAnon at the Irondale Center between October 21 and November 9. The play depicts an emotional collision between three girls: Carroll’s fictional Alice, the lead singer of Jefferson Airplane, and the anonymous narrator of Go Ask Alice, the diary of drug taking that caused sensation in 1971. Reviewers say it is seriously trippy…
If you live in Seattle, you could try and gate-crash the 110th Annual Conference of the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association at Seattle University to see Amanda Lastoria of Simon Fraser University deliver a paper called “Selling Wonderland: How Lewis Carroll Built his Alice Empire.” In her paper Amanda will advance her thesis that Lewis Carroll was a publishing dynamo whose considerable business savvy has been little recognized.
If you live in Manchester, England, you could see Gaynor Arnold speaking at the Manchester Literary Festival about her new book After Such Kindness, a fictionalized account of the relationship between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell. The event will be held at the Portico Library on Saturday at 6.30 p.m.
And if you live anywhere else, well, isn’t it time you started planning your Alice-themed Halloween costume? A good source of ideas might be this this photo slide show of recent and not-so recent big-budget, Alice-themed events. The slide show reveals both what a strange assortment of organizations decide on an Alice in Wonderland theme for their event (OfficeMax is one) and that the Canadian Cancer Society knows how to throw a good party.
Ben Whishaw and Judi Dench (also known as Queen Elizabeth I and ‘Q’ from the next James Bond movie). What might they have talked about?
Yes, our website is salvaged from savage pirates, and we have a lot of news to catch up on. Speaking of pirates… Peter Pan! (Sorry, that was a horrible transition. We’re a little rusty.) John Logan has written a play about Alice Liddell Hargreaves (the muse for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland) and Peter Llewelyn Davies (the Peter who inspired J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan). It’s called Peter and Alice. What might they have said to one another when they were older? We’ll find out in March 2013 on the London stage, where the roles will be played by Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw. The playwright won an Academy Award for writing the movie Gladiator, so hopefully Alice and Peter will fight lions! Or, have tea and discuss“questions about how people cope with being hurled into the public eye as children.”
“Of course that’s how it begins: a harmless fairy tale to pass the hours”
When Alice Liddell Hargreaves met Peter Llewelyn Davies at the opening of a Lewis Carroll exhibition in 1932, the original Alice in Wonderland came face to face with the original Peter Pan. In John Logan’s remarkable new play, enchantment and reality collide as this brief encounter lays bare the lives of these two extraordinary characters.
Judi Dench plays Alice and Ben Whishaw plays Peter in Logan’s first new play since Red, which went on to win six Tony Awards in 2010.
Director Michael Grandage Set and Costume Designer Christopher Oram Lighting Designer Paule Constable Composer and Sound Designer Adam Cork
Alas, while our website was down due to an extremely malicious (and really, what was the point???) hacker malware attack, we missed alerting you to a production at the FringeNYC2012 play festival called Phantomwise. James, one of our blogmasters, remembers that this play was first produced for three performances by the Yale Dramat when playwright Oren Stevens was an undergraduate there.
If anyone saw the Fringe production, please do post a comment and let us know more about the piece and the production.
Rachel Teagle’s adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, now premiering at the Serenbe Playhouse, presents an unfamiliar Alice, ”an introverted Alice, closed off from the world, her imagination, and most tragically, her ability to DREAM.” But can Alice be Alice if Alice cannot dream? Read Jim Farmer’s review from the Atlanta arts website ArtsATL, or go see the show and let us know what you conclude.
Serenbe Playhouse performs outdoors in the Serenbe community, a 1000-acre planned development 30 minutes from Atlanta that aspires to be “a national model for the future of balanced development in the U.S.” The theatre company participates fully in the vision of the community “modeling Green Theatre Practices by producing plays with a commitment to social responsibility and environmental stewardship.”
Alice in Wonderland
June 1 – July 28th (Fridays & Saturdays at 11am)
Serenbe Playhouse, The Forest Glen Stage (Near The Tree House), Serenbe, GE
With only two performances left of a six-night show, Alice in Wonderland at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis seems to have been charming and challenging the critics in equal measure. “South Korean composer Unsuk Chin’s five-year-old Alice in Wonderland might be the most “out there” work I’ve seen in 22 years of coming here” says Scott Cantrell, classical music critic for the Dallas Morning News.
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (Ken Howard)
With prime episodes wittily adapted in a libretto by David Henry Hwang and Chin, the score matches Carroll for sheer weirdness and unpredictability — and humor. I was delighted for about an hour and a half of the nearly two-hour, no-intermission work, but found the end overly protracted.
Vocal lines often dart widely, although Alice sings a lullaby to the Duchess’ pig baby. There’s a fair bit of Sprechstimme, halfway between speech and singing, and the Duchess tosses off a streetwise rap. The Caterpillar “speaks” through an onstage, be-fezzed bass clarinetist, while the words of his exchange with Alice are merely projected on the walls. More (and some photos). . .
John von Rhein at the Chicago Tribune seemed to enjoy the evening:
Ashley Emerson made a spunky, engaging Alice, clear of voice and accurate of pitch, although her soprano sometimes failed to penetrate the thorny scoring. The Caterpillar was danced by choreographer Sean Curran and “sung” by bass clarinetist James Meyer, with members of the children’s chorus trailing behind as segments of the insect’s body. Tracy Dahl’s Cheshire Cat, David Trudgen’s White Rabbit, Matthew DiBattista’s Dormouse, Aubrey Allicock’s Mad Hatter, Julie Makerov’s Queen of Hearts and Jenni Bank’s Duchess also were standouts amid the large ensemble. Every one of them went at the blithe lunacy of their roles hammer and tongs. More. . .
The St. Louis performance is the U.S. premiere of Unsuk Chin’s work. At the world premiere in Munich in 2007 it received a decidedly mixed response, as one review recounted: “In the end, the audience divided violently. The lusty, loudly sustained boo’s seemed to overwhelm the less numerous but also sustained applause.” No such reports from the St. Louis show, just congratulations to a brave and talented ensemble.
The final performance will be on June 23rd at 8pm, at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, 210 Hazel Avenue St. Louis, MO.
Germany’s MS Schrittmacher just premiered an interesting “Alice im Wunderland,” which ran from March 28 thru April 7. The show was actually staged at Berlin’s Hermannplatz, a Karstadt department store. DerekScally of the Irish Times reviewed it in English, and he gives us a glimpse into what went down:
MS MS Schrittmacher's Alice im Wunderland, at Berlin's Hermannplatz
Here, Lewis Carroll’s 19th-century favourite has been given a postmodern, 21st-century makeover.
Alice is now a frazzled 40-something with lanky blonde-brown hair and her Wonderland is a consumer hell: Dante’s Inferno meets Are You Being Served?.
For the next 90 minutes, a small audience follows her through the department store during opening hours.
Regular customers stare, open-mouthed, at this unannounced undermining of capitalism and consumerism before their eyes – and this in one of Berlin’s largest shopping temples, with the full blessing of the Karstadt management.
Upstairs in the women’s department, the smoking Caterpillar is now a patronising sales assistant. Her advice to Alice, who is increasingly confused about who she is: in this consumer world your identity is your clothes size, you are the brand you buy.
As the scene plays out, a Karstadt customer, trapped in the adjacent changing room, tries to hide behind the curtain her mortification at becoming an unwitting extra in this capitalist critique.