Study Guide by Alexa Smith, Dramaturg
High School Theatre Festival
November 19th, 2012
Hello and welcome to Theatre Simpson’s 16th Annual High School Theatre Festival and production of Alice’s Trip. A dramaturg is used to research aspects of a production in order to clarify any obscurities. By finding discoveries about the text and the world surrounding the time it was written, more can be read into the text. Further, the findings raise questions. How would a character in the play react to a circumstance? Which world do we live in? Do we let our imaginations into our reality or do we shun it? Companies will use dramaturges to help find these answers. A dramaturg researches for the audience and for the entire theatre company.
As the dramaturg for Theatre Simpson’s production of Alice’s Trip conceived by Jennifer Nostrala, I want to help reveal the incorporated worlds of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass to the production team and the actors. Theatre challenges our perception of the world surrounding us and how we relate to our circumstances.
My goal is to depict the double life of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and Lewis Carroll. In some form or another, people find themselves as living two lives much like Dodgson. Dodgson’s profession and his nom de plume Lewis Carroll are entirely different people who reside in the same mind. Alice similarly must follow the rules of society she has been told to obey, yet her suppressed imagination challenges her to not follow rules.
This study guide will uncover the history behind the Alice stories. What made Dodgson come up with the idea? Dodgson enjoyed the company of children so perhaps an Oxford mathematician writing a children’s story isn’t as peculiar as it seems at first.
I want to see how the Alice stories have inspired musicians, playwrights, poets, films, and television. Some inspirations hint at the stories while others such as Steely Dan’s Mock Turtle Song or the early 1990s TV show Adventures in Wonderland which combines both Alice stories. What is it about Dodgson’s stories that are sparking creative endeavors over 100 years later? My hope is for the audience to see aspects of their lives reflected in the action onstage.
-Alexa Smith, Dramaturg
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson
Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was born on January 27th, 1832 in Daresbury, Cheshire, England. His parents Charles and Frances Dodgson were also first cousins. It is believed his stutter and obsessive compulsive disorder was caused due to his parents close genetics. Dodgson went to two schools for boys, then entered college at Oxford. He taught mathematics at Christ Church, Oxford from 1855-1898. As part of his contract under Christ Church, he was to remain a celibate bachelor. This requirement was later dropped, but Dodgson was an older gentleman at that point and had settled into bachelorhood.
In addition to math, logic and religion, he enjoyed photography and spending time with children. Art was such an interest for Dodgson he commissioned Arthur Hughes to paint “Lady of the Lilacs”. He enjoyed the company of girls since he felt he had a difficult time connecting with boys, many relate his issues with boys back to his days in school. One of his hobbies was writing. Dodgson is most well known for his two novels, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Dodgson succumbed to pneumonia and complications from bronchitis in 1898.
The famed Lewis Carroll is actually Charles L. Dodgson. Dodgson lived a serious life where fantasy didn’t have a place to exist. In order for him to let his creative side keep from being bottled up, he used the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. How did he get this name?
“Reflecting his obsession with wordplay since childhood, the pseudonym was a clever transposition of his real name: “Lewis” was the anglicized form of Ludovicus (Latin for “Lutwidge”), and “Carroll” was an Irish surname similar to the Latin Carolus, from which the name “Charles” is derived.” This is appropriate since he says in Through the Looking Glass names should have meaning. (Ciuraru, 66) The famed pseudonym came about in 1856 when he was writing for the Comic Times. (Sunshine, 203)
Dodgson living a double life as Lewis Carroll reflects the ideas of his Alice stories. In both stories, Alice must determine what her identity is. An example of this is from Alice in Wonderland when the Caterpillar is asking her “Who are you?” Alice doesn’t know how to answer him; she hasn’t discovered who she is yet. A second example is Alice and the Fawn in Through the Looking Glass:
‘Then it really has happened, after all! And how, who am I? I will remember, if I can! I’m determined to do it!’ But being determined didn’t help much, and all she could say, after a great deal of puzzling, was, ‘L, I know it begins with L!’ ‘What do you call yourself?’ the Fawn said at last. Such a soft sweet voice it had! ‘I wish I knew!’ thought poor Alice. She answered, rather sadly, ‘Nothing, just now.’ ‘Think again,’ it said: ‘that won’t do.’ Alice thought, but nothing came of it. (Carroll, 232-233)
Alice’s dilemma could actually be Dodgson’s Dilemma. He was torn between his two identities, keeping them separate, never allowing Charles Dodgson to meet Lewis Carroll. Lewis Carroll indulged his imagination and didn’t allow anything too serious in his life. Charles L. Dodgson eschewed his imagination and creative side, instead focusing on math and teaching his pupils.
Alice Liddell and the Alice Stories
One day Dodgson and the children were in a row boat out on a lake. Alice asked Dodgson to tell them a story. What he came up with was Alice’s Adventure’s Underground. It would be several months before he would write it down and include illustrations and give to Alice. Eventually this book would become Alice in Wonderland.
Alice Pleasance Liddell was three-years-old when she met Dodgson. Alice’s father was the Dean at Christ Church. Dodgson enjoyed the company of children thus spent much time with the Liddell children Lorina, Edith, Alice, and Henry. (Photo sessions were an activity the children would do with Dodgson as the photographer.) Dodgson bought the camera on March 18, 1856 (Winchester, 11). The children would be in fancy clothes or costumes and Dodgson would take their pictures.
The most famous photograph of Alice Liddell depicts her as a peasant. This 1857 photo was inspired by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem ‘The Beggar Maid.’
The Beggar Maid by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Her arms across her breast she laid;
She was more fair than words can say;
Barefooted came the beggar maid
Before the king Cophetua.
In robe and crown the king stept down,
To meet and greet her on her way;
‘It is no wonder,’ said the lords,
‘She is more beautiful than day.’
As shines the moon in clouded skies,
She in her poor attire was seen;
One praised her ankles, one her eyes,
One her dark hair and lovesome mien.
So sweet a face, such angel grace,
In all that land had never been.
Cophetua sware a royal oath:
‘This beggar maid shall be my queen!’
Alice in Today’s World
1903: Silent film Alice in Wonderland Watch
1915: Silent film Alice in Wonderland Watch
1951: Disney animated Alice in Wonderland Movie
1962: Rocky and Bullwinkle segment Bullwinkle’s Corner The Queen of Hearts Watch
1966: Batman TV Series Villain named ‘Mad Hatter’
1966: Batman TV Series Episode 28 The Pharoh’s in a Rut features ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Bat’ Watch
1967: The Monkee’s song ‘Pillow Time’ lyrics “There’s a wonderland for Alice…..try to put Humpty together again” Watch
1990: ‘Saved by the Bell’ Jessie refers to Zack and Slater as Tweedledee and Tweedledum
1991-1995: Disney Television Series Adventures in Wonderland Episode One
1999: Mattel Alice in Wonderland Barbie dolls Images
2009: SyFy two part TV series called Alice; Malice in Wonderland movie
2010: Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland Movie; Almost Alice soundtrack for this movie
Restaurants in New York City called Alice’s Tea Cup Website
Steely Dan song ‘Mock Turtle Soup’
Two buddies get referred to as Tweedledee and Tweedledum
What do you believe to be the theme(s) in the Alice stories?
In what ways are the stories similar to real life? How are they different?
In what ways do you feel the Walt Disney movie and Tim Burton movie have influenced your perception of the Alice stories?
The play is based on the Alice Stories, what are your expectations of this production?
How did you interpret actors playing multiple characters/creating a character together?
We’ve created this play for a reason, why are these stories still relevant today?
Write a review of the play-did the production meet your expectations?
Alice becomes frustrated with the conventions of the “nonsense” worlds she visits. Does the real world or Alice’s imagined world display sense, nonsense? Why?
Logic by Dodgson
Charles Lutwidge Dodson enjoyed logic games, created the Carroll Diagram, and wrote acrostic poetry. Here are some examples of his work.
Doublets (Invented by Dodgson)
Example For you to try
Turn PRAY into STAR Turn READ into BOOK
“Some x are y. No x are y. All x are y. The objects x and y should be of the same type, such as birds, cakes, person’s, or puppies; in the language of logic we call such a collection the universe. This square is then divided into four smaller squares. In the top row are the objects x (such as new cakes), and in the bottom row the objects that are not x (not- new cakes). Similarly, the left column contains the objects y (such as nice cakes) and the right column the objects that are not y (not- nice cakes). Each of the four smaller squares now refers to a certain collection of cakes-for example at the top right are the new not-nice cakes. (Wilson, 176)
Dodgson’s Illustrations for Alice Stories
A poem where the first letter of each line spells a word.
- This poem is at the end of Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. What is spelled out?
A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July–
Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear–
Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die.
Autumn frosts have slain July.
Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.
Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.
In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream–
Lingering in the golden gleam–
Life, what is it but a dream?
Alice’s Trip Synopsis
Alice is by herself in a theatre with a puppet that looks just like her, a man dressed in white, and a white rabbit. Alice begins her trip.
Alice arrives at her destination. There she finds a locked door, a golden key, a bottle marked ‘Drink Me’, and a cake labeled ‘Eat Me’. She meets the man in white again.
Due to her frustration over her circumstances Alice causes a flood of tears. The flood gets her and some animals wet. To get themselves dry the animals hold a Caucus Race.
After getting trapped in a box Alice is in the presence of a Caterpillar. He repeatedly asks her ‘Who are you?” with Alice never giving a clear answer. She learns the Rules of Wonderland while she goes through several size changes.
The Cheshire Cat gives Alice a lesson on mad people. He tells her that she is mad; she’s in Wonderland after all. Only mad people are in Wonderland. Next she attends a tea party hosted by the March Hare and the Mad Hatter. As Alice exits the tea party she view the procession of the King and Queen of Hearts.
While watching the procession the Gryphon invites Alice to see the Lobster Quadrille performed by him and the Mock Turtle. As the dance ends a trial over the Queen of Hearts’ tarts begins. Once the trial is over Alice returns to her world.
Alice goes through a mirror to arrive in another world. Upon her arrival she hears the Jabberwocky. After the Jabberwocky Alice in on a train without a ticket, she wishes the train would disappear and it does. She then comes across a strange set of twins named Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
Escaping the twins Alice happens upon Humpty Dumpty. Humpty Dumpty is consumed by his ego and frustrates Alice with his logic. Next, the Red Knight and the White Knight each try to take Alice as his prisoner. Alice declares she doesn’t want to be anyone’s prisoner; she wants to be a queen. She is crowned and gets queen lessons from the Red Queen and the White Queen. A party is held for Queen Alice.
Alice leaves this other world. She wonders if it all was a dream.
Carroll, Lewis. Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. New York City: Grosset & Dunlap, Inc. Penguin Putnam Books, 1946, 2008 Printing.
Ciuraru, Carmela. Nom de Plume. New York City: HarperCollins, 2011.
Rackin, Donald. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking- Glass Nonsense, Sense, and Meaning. New York City: Twayne Publishers Macmillan Publishing Company, 1991.
Sunshine, Linda. All Things Alice. New York City: Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2004.
Wilson, Robin. Lewis Carroll in Numberland. New York City: W.W. Norton, 2008.
Winchester, Simon. The Alice Behind Wonderland. New York City: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Woolf, Jenny. From Somewhere in Time www.jabberwock.co.uk. 15 December 2006. 19 August 2012.
—. The Mystery of Lewis Carroll Discovering the Whimsical, Thoughtful, and Sometimes Lonely Man who Created Alice in Wonderland. New York City: St. Martin’s Press, 2010.
Zeyst, Keri van. 19th Century Post…a mourning cover & miscellany collection. 2007. 5 October 2012 <http://www.19thcenturypost.com/apps/blog/show/1775820-reginald-southey-1835-1899-by-lewis-carroll-charles-lutwidge-dodgson->.