A few months have passed since the performance of the Foundation Course play of Alice in Wonderland and several of the participating co-workers have already left Newton Dee. Nevertheless, the memory of this year’s play will hopefully persist in the village, at least for a while.
The period leading up to the play was filled with preparations consisting of crafty evenings, rehearsals, some discussions and a lot of joyful moments to look back on. After our first meeting about the play, guided by Russ, the co-workers took on all the responsibility. As I did not imagine myself running across the stage as a white rabbit, I accepted the role as the director, hesitating somewhat. Still, what struck me from the beginning was the positive approach everyone seemed to have to the project. I had prepared myself for convincing everyone that “this was going to be so much fun”, but my fellow co-workers clearly did not need any half-hearted words of encouragement. After the roles had been assigned, we got to work quickly and the creativity was not lacking. Furthermore, we immediately realized that we had found the right person for each role, and I can honestly, without any judgement, say that several of the characters reflected some personalities surprisingly well. This experience goes well with what we have learned from the story: “We’re all mad here.”
The reason why I could imagine us performing Alice in Wonderland, originally a children’s novel from 1865 by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, was initially because of the magically bewildering feeling I get whenever I dive into the story. I probably do not speak only on my own behalf when I associate this feeling with the experiences I have built up from a year in Newton Dee. Alice enters Wonderland without clear expectations of what she will encounter there, but rapidly realizes that based on the advice she gets, she eventually has to trust her own decisions. Similarly, despite elaborate courses and a willingness to help the new co-workers, I am sure everyone sooner or later ends up in a situation where there is no one around to ask for immediate guidance.
“Curiouser and curiouser!” As we were approaching Friday the 23rd of June, we started asking ourselves how we were going to get ready in time to give a convincing performance. Would we even manage to finish painting the background and be sure that everyone had learned their lines? After all, we had given ourselves an interesting task choosing a far from realistic play, with growing and shrinking, smoking caterpillars and travelling between different worlds. Curiously enough, the unrealistic reality of Alice in Wonderland ended up on Newton Dee’s stage, and it was a pleasure as director to sit through the performance seeing each and every one of the co-workers who performed on stage take their time to be a little mad, as well as following the other groups in their work to make the stage look as beautiful as possible.
A few months after the play, 16 years after I watched the Disney version for the first time and 2 years after an extensive analysis of Carroll’s novel, I still regard this story as one of my favourites. I hope we managed to convey one particular reason why I love it: on the surface it might seem like pure nonsense, but it is only when you let yourself fall down the rabbit hole and embrace the story you find yourself walking through Wonderland with Alice, insatiably searching for meaning in a mad world - then you realize how accurate that description is for the world we live in.