You can view Lewis Carroll's classic story Alice in Wonderland through many different lenses. There's the Disney scope, which renders it an innocent, happily ending tale; the acid-laced goggles that focus on Alice's trippy hallucinations of grinning cats and anxious white rabbits; and the philosopher's view, which sees the deep theories pulsing beneath the seemingly nonsensical narrative. Now there's even a South Florida lens, through which dance, song, and colorful video projections create a world where no previous version of Alice ever dared to visit.
If you've ever thought the Magic City is a beautiful, subtropical wasteland of bright hues and nonsense, you might have subconsciously willed this production, a theatrical adaptation by locals Stephanie Ansin and Fernando Calzadilla. Step through the looking glass tomorrow with the 10 a.m. opening performance at the PlayGround Theatre. But before you do, check out what director Ansin had to say about the production.
New Times: Tell us about your version of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.
Stephanie Ansin: My collaborator Fernando Calzadilla and I took the story to South Florida. Lewis Carroll (based the characters on) friends of his, or cultural references. In ours, we change it a bit to reference our culture, time, and community. There's also original music by a local producer, Luciano Stazzone, and choreography by a local choreographer, Octavio Campos. And there are video projections, a lot of use of video.
Can you give us some examples of your take on the characters?
Like Alice, it's never said in the text but in our mind she is a Catholic school student. Her uniform when she wakes up out of the dream is a Catholic school girl outfit -- you know, the blue plaid skirt and the white blouse. Then in the dream, it's a red, plaid dress inspired by Alexander McQueen.
What about the animals?
One of the birds is a macaw, which is a local animal. The mock turtle, which is a character from the book -- we imagine the shell of the turtle as football (uniform) padding, so it's a combination of a turtle and a Miami Dolphins football player.
How did you come up with the idea to make a South Florida-version of Alice in Wonderland?
I was actually answering interview questions via email at three in the morning, and one of the questions was, "Who is your favorite hero or heroine?" My gut response was Alice. And I had never read the book or seen the whole movie. I didn't really know why I said that, but that was my answer. And then I got really interested in the idea of Alice in Wonderland, and figuring out why the story had endured for so long. I started to read it--it's very complicated, it's very dense. There are a billion different theories of what it's about. There are many different interpretations--psychological, political, and religious. So I was trying to find a way that I could connect to the story, a way that I could connect it to our life right now.
Anything else you'd like to add about the production?
Our outreach program. Every day during the week we bring in public school students for free to see the show, and we have certain days of special performances for audience members with disabilities. They can come experience the show with assisted listening devices if they are hearing impaired. We have live visual descriptions for the visually impaired, which means there's an actor standing in the back of the theatre giving a live description of what's happening on stage, and audience members who want to hear it have a special listening device. And we have Braille study guides and programs. We'll have sign language interpretation, and open captioning so people can read the dialogue live on an LED screen.
Alice in Wonderland runs this Wednesday to December 19 at the PlayGround Theatre (9806 NE 2nd Ave, Miami Shores. Tuesday through Friday performances are at 10 a.m. except for Tuesday, November 9 and Friday, December 17 when they are at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday performances are at 2 p.m., with an additional 7 p.m. show on Saturday, November 13. Tickets cost $20. Call 305-751-9550 or visit theplaygroundtheatre.com.
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