Oct 22

Writing a letter to Alice, for Lewis Carroll

Last night, in New York City, I got to see the beautiful immersive show Then She Fell — based on Alice In Wonderland. My favorite moment: After a mad tea party filled with aggressive and ritualistic teacup motions, I became separated from my companions, alone in the 19th-century asylum. Somehow I ended up with the White Rabbit, who took me into a tiny office to paint white roses red. He left me there as I painted.

I began to wonder whether I had been forgotten when a nurse came to fetch me. She led me through a bower filled with hundreds of red and white roses, into a small reading-room, where she instructed me to wait.

I waited. In his formal suit, Lewis Carroll soon came through the door and found me there. “Do you take dictation?” he inquired. “Sometimes,” I said, and he handed me a pen and paper. To the best of my memory, here is the letter he dictated. His manner was both melancholy and uncertain:

Dear Alice: I hope this letter finds you. Letters have a way of getting lost. I have been immersed among these reflections of myself, and I fear that I may never escape.

As I wrote, Mr. Carroll led me through another door into a new room, which was flooded inches deep in water. We walked along a raised wooden pathway. In a corner was a velvet-stuffed chair with its feet submerged in the water, surrounded by small bottles, corked and floating. Mr. Carroll had me finish the letter, and then he took it from me and signed it. Then he stepped off the platform and ankle-deep into the water, and sat despondently in the chair. He produced a glass bottle, identical to the ones already floating in the water, and he put my message into the bottle. And then he corked the bottle and dropped it into the water among the rest.

I had only a moment more in that room, for a nurse came through a door behind me, and gently took me away.

(Then She Fell is an immersive theatre production similar to Sleep No More NYC or The Speakeasy SF, although it’s more linear than either of those shows, and it’s also more interactive because only 15 people get to see each show. The show has a strong focus on the actual real-life relationship between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell, who was a little girl when she knew Carroll. It’s a matter of historical record that the relationship ended suddenly, but no one knows why.)

I posted this account to my Facebook wall, too, and there were many comments where friends shared their own experiences of Then She Fell. And of course, here’s the Facebook thread for Sleep No More.