My co-executive producer at Dodgeball Theatre, Sally Cusenza, and I have been obsessed for YEARS with the whole Alice in Wonderland story. Developing it into a piece of theatre has been a long journey, as we explored different visions with multiple playwrights until we finally had what we wanted to say. We knew we wanted to explore not only our personal connections with the Alice story but also to create something more dramatic and compelling rather than episodic, using both traditional and experimental forms of theatre to layer the narrative with movement, music, and visual elements. Keeping the whimsy and the playfulness of Lewis Carroll’s words, but allowing them to find a darker edge as well.
This ALICE is the journey of a little girl with high anxiety who is afraid of leaving childhood behind. As an educator and an artist, I am really connected to seeing the changes occurring in girls and young women of this age with whom I work. Nothing is as it seems as they all navigate that leap into the unknown. I also wanted to really explore the idea of anxiety, how it can take over our thoughts and create chaos in our heads. Things that aren’t real seem excruciatingly real, and we can become paralyzed with our obsessive fears. Both of these worlds can collide for a young person as they face the physical and emotional stresses of growing out of childhood, which can also be the first time they are aware of their mental instability. They can feel completely isolated and wind up spending too much time in their own head.
The idea of TIME became an important thematic thread to evoke tension and create increasing anxiety, a very personal form of anxiety that I relate to! There is never enough of it, the clock is always ticking, time is always running out…and conversely there can also be too much time as we wait for the next thing. Both too much and not enough? Very Wonderland.
Time pushes us forwards and backwards, and when time and story intersect, it causes chaos. Using the visual element of steampunk came directly out of this, because it resonated with me as a concept of the past, present, and future all in one. It also visually represents so beautifully the merging of the playful and the harder edge. It keeps us in the world of fantasy.
And that’s the versatility of ALICE, isn’t it? Timeless, yet being able to find that resonating note that still works today.