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.
Entertainment Weekly’s PopWatch blog posted pictures last week from the upcoming Broadway musical Wonderland, which will open in the Marquis Theatre April 17, 2011. Kate Shindle was Miss Illinois in 1997 and Miss America in 1998, and has since appeared on Broadway in Caberet and Legally Blonde.
“One of my first questions to the creative team was, ‘Why is the Mad Hatter female?’” admits Shindle about her gender-bending new role.
“It’s a cool gimmick, but it has to make sense.” And it does: This update, featuring music by veteran Broadway composer Frank Wildhorn (Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlett Pimpernel), features a grown-up Alice who, dissatisfied with her marriage and career, takes an elevator into the bowels of Manhattan to find her missing daughter and, consequently, herself. “There are a lot of messages here,” says Shindle, who is introduced during the famous tea party sequence (pictured, top). “One is that there are forces at work within everybody and the question is what we want to let win. The Mad Hatter represents a part of Alice — I hesitate to say her dark side because she’s the fun, life-of-the-party side, but she’s also her insecurity, self-sabotage, and fear. The tea party is where Alice is introduced to the Hatter and realizes she has to reckon with that force.” What about the red pantsuit and bustle? “That’s the final showdown. It’s at a point in the show where the story might as well be over, but bad stuff, you know, just doesn’t go away quite so easily. That song is the beginning of it.”
Caffeine Theatre and Chicago Opera Vanguard are staging Boojum! Nonsense, Truth and Lewis Carroll, from November 16th through December 19th, at the DCA Storefront Theater in Chicago. Described as “part existential musical theater and part fantasy adventure story,” it was created by Australian play-writing and composing team Martin Wesley-Smith and Peter Wesley-Smith (whose identical last names are either an extraordinary coincidence, or else not a coincidence at all.)
A few reviews are out: Chicago Now‘s Katy Walsh described it as a “nonsensical operetta that is all in its head,” and provided a nice description of the premise:
Reverend Charles Dodgson battles his pseudonym over the origins of his most famous literary masterpiece. The reserved Charles and the flamboyant Lewis deconstruct their lookingglass fame. Who better to help in the rediscovery process than Alice? Both of them! The child and adult version of Carroll’s inspiration challenge him on the intense connection and de-connection of their relationship. As Charles sorts out his Alice issues, his imagination unleashes the makings for his farcical poem, “The Hunting of the Snark”. Quirky characters fill Charles’ head with a jumble of demands for attention. BOOJUM! Nonsense, Truth and Lewis Carroll is a stay-cation to a world of the unexpected. What a head-trip!
Caffeine Theatre and Chicago Opera Vanguard will be premiering Boojum! Nonsense, Truth, and Lewis Carroll on November 18th thru December 19th, 2010, at Chicago DCA’s Storefront Theater. (I understand the “Nonsense” and the “Lewis Carroll,” but will withhold judgment on the “Truth.”) Caffeine Theatre is hosting a nonsense poetry contest, the winners to be incorporated into the play! The guidelines, asposted by Emily Wong atGapers Block:
Caffeine Theatre wants YOU — to send them your original poetry for their “Old Father William’s Frabjous and Curious Poetry Contest.” Just follow their rules:
Submissions may include any size or style of poem, as long as it is inspired in some way by the life or work of Lewis Carroll, or in some way speaks in conversation with that life or work.
Nonsense poems and poems exploring symbolic logic are especially encouraged.
Winners will be posted and podcast on Caffeine’s website, and performed at the Lewis Carroll Coffeehouse at the end of November.
Any new or previously written poem may be submitted (provided it can be republished/recorded/performed).
Submit your Lewis Carroll-inspired, nonsense poems by emailing the poems and a 3-5 sentence description of their relation to Lewis Carroll to the Caffeine Theatre Associate Artistic Director, Daniel Smith, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure you have “Old Father William” in the subject heading! The deadline for submissions is October 31, 2010.
Meanwhile, while you’re waiting for Boojum!, Chicago’s Crown Point Community Theater is staging an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, opening this Friday, October 8th. “It’s a very playful adaptation,” said director Liz Love according to thePost-Tribune. “The other characters are all getting ready to perform ‘Alice in Wonderland’ but they have a problem. They have no Alice. But as luck would have it there just happens to be a girl named Alice and they help her find her way into the story.”
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!
There’s a new theater piece called Alice, premiering tonight at the Theatre of Yugen, 2840 Mariposa Street in San Francisco (running September 9th through 19th), directed and “imagined” by Allison Combs. As a work of “movement theatre,” it’s about 60% interpretive dance and 40% dialogue, easily juggling different genres of theater with different types of music, and varying levels of seriousness & silliness.
Alice, in her traditional blue outfit but played by a leggy adult actor/dancer (Megan Trout), is already exhausted on the stage when the audience is allowed to enter. (“Is that Alice?” asked a young girl behind me, Alice having already silently begun her opening number while an usher noisily hobbled past her to turn off a loud fan & the audience settled in.) This Alice starts out with grown-up anxieties, obsessive-compulsively counting numbers, and reassuring herself repeatedly “okay, okay, okay.” In contrast to the wildness she’s about to encounter, we realize that her troubled state of mind at the beginning is her supposed normalcy.
Then, instead of a white rabbit, she is shaken from her routine by a single playing card falling from the sky. A tribe of five strange savages in rags starts to mess with her by taking her thru the mind-and-body-changing adventures of Wonderland, loosely inspired by the stuff that happens in Carroll’s book. (While Alice was exploring the corridor, before it really gets going, the child behind me declared “This is upsetting because it’s boring.”) Growing, shrinking, falling, mushrooms, being stuck in a house, scary forests, and all manner of psychedelic abstractions are created by the weird tribe with their flexible interlocking limbs, in extremely creative ways. Only using their bodies, a caterpillar sits on a mushroom, and when he sucks on one of their fingers, the whole mushroom inhales & exhales. It’s most fun during the wild dance numbers, with their very cool choreography; it drags a little during the dialog, which like so many Alice in Wonderland adaptations, is always a lot less clever than Carroll’s original. For some reason, their amazing Cheshire Cat, very feline & Kabuki-ish, stuck closer to Carroll’s words, and was consequently much more powerful.
After Alice has gone native, a new square-peg (named Lewis) also finds himself lost in Wonderland, and by this time Alice has already become one of the weird savages. Lewis’s unhappy anal-retention makes us realize what Wonderland is to these people: everything ‘other’ in American society. Their Wonderland is part hippie, part hipster, part Burning Man, part mushroom trip, totally gay, multi-cultural and sexy. It has games with no rules, self-examination, community, humor, and of course lots of dancing and singing. It’s also dirty. Uptight Lewis rejects it outright, and even Alice eventually wakes up. But she’s definitely dirtier than before her trip to Wonderland (“Is she dripping sweat?” asked the child behind me.)
Atmos Theatre, a volunteer-run theater company in San Francisco, has adapted Alice in Wonderland for its ninth season of “Theatre in the Woods.” It’s been happening every Saturday & Sunday in August and through September 19th in Woodside, California (a few cities south of San Francisco.) “‘Alice in Wonderland’ is performed as part of a guided hike through our redwood-filled forest property.” It sounds beautiful but, unfortunately, the entire run is completely sold out!
The original adaptation is by Brian Markley and directed by Amy Clare Tasker.
Theatre in the Woods features two stages and a variety of performance spots along our trails. Our Main Stage, nestled with a beautiful backdrop of redwood trees behind it, features natural benches made out of redwood planks and stumps. Our Amphitheatre Stage at Harrington Creek features natural amphitheatre seating carved out of the hillside. We provide blankets on the earth benches for a perfect view of the forest stage opposite the creek. And the acoustics are fantastic!
There’s a casting call up right now at Playbill.com for The Hunting of the Snark, a stage adaptation for the Manhattan Repertory Theatre’s Fall Fest. The full listing gives a good feel for what the play might be like, so I’ll quote it at length:
Frontispiece to Fit the Second, from Mahendra Singh's illustrations
“The Hunting of the Snark” is a theatrical adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s poem of the same name. This production is a part of Manhattan Repertory Theatre’s Fall Fest. This is a wonderful whirlwind opportunity to collaborate with several emerging artists at a theater in mid-town!
Rehearsals begin August 16th. Performances are September 16, 17, and 19. Times TBA.
Looking for 12 actors of either gender and any ethnicity from ages 25-30. A plus if you play any unique instruments, can perform simple magic tricks, are great with sound effects, or have experience with simple dance/movement.
The Bellman – Crazy for hunting the Snark
Bonnets – A shy, clingy individual
Barrister – Victim to Snark hallucination
Broker – Fast-paced individual
Butcher – Acts like a dunce, but it is revealed he knows everything about natural history
Beaver – The Bellman’s sidekick. Knows what’s what before everyone else
Baker – The person behind the proper method of hunting the Snark
Banker – Brought on board at enormous expense
Billiards-Maker – Sly, only wants to have fun, but quickly discovers how dangerous this is. **Simple magic tricks are a plus**
Snark – Thinks that it’s in control of the show
Creatures (3) – One of the creatures on the island. They set the mood and scene for much that happens on the island. **Seeking movers/dancers, individuals who can play unique instruments, and vocalists**
Adapted by Katie Dickinson
Directed by Nathan Gregorski
Choreographed by Shannon McPhee
Thanks Mahendra Singh for the tip, and he adds: “maybe this will be our long-awaited Summer of Snark … have you gone down to Snark Island with some Boojums in your hair, etc etc.” There are also moviesand new editions in the works. (Singh’s beautiful new illustrations for the Snark are being published by Melville House this November – pre-order it on Amazon here, and see examples on his blog here!)
Back in November, Frank Wildhorn’s musical “Wonderland: A New Alice” premiered in Tampa Bay Florida. Yesterday it was announced that they are heading for Broadway and the big time. The show is set to open on April 17, 2011 and previews will begin a month before. The cast is yet to be announced.
“Journey with a modern-day Alice to Wonderland and the Looking-Glass World where she must find her daughter, defeat the Queen and learn to follow her heart…”
A synopsis, video montage, and musical clips from the 2009 production can still be enjoyed on this blog.
Thanks to Mahendra Singh for reminding us that 136 years ago today Lewis Carroll began his composition of The Hunting of the Snark, “and thus, in a semiotic and hypermetaphysical manner, began decomposing the non-existence of The Hunting of the Snark.” Read more at his excellent blog.
In celebration of Snark Day, here is the full text the first edition, published by Macmillan and Co. in 1876.
In lieu of a rendition of “Happy Birthday To You,” we suggest listening to Billy Connolly as the Bellman in the 1987 April Fool’s Day performance of Mike Batt’s Snark musical. When the musical was originally released as a concept album in 1986, the part of the Bellman was sung by Cliff Richard, possibly the only time Billy Connolly and Cliff Richard have proved substitutable in popular culture.
Finally, Mr. Singh (an LCSNA member and Knight Letter editor) is publishing his own beautiful Snark illustrations, coming out November 2nd, 2010, from Melville House, and it’s already available for pre-order on Amazon.com here. Only $10.08! (Don’t be fooled by Amazon’s “look inside,” it links to another edition.) Previews of many of Singh’s illustrations can be seen on his blog, and I’ve reprinted one below.
From Mahendra Singh's illustrations for Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark