Beyond What You Expected – Rethinking the Stage
21+ only – Enter the dark world of an adaption of Lewis Caroll’s well-known piece of Alice and Wonderland – “Then She Fell.” Admitting only 15 people per performance through a guided tour of the enchanted Wonderland, we are welcomed by a nurse with a clipboard (as if we will become patients of this asylum ourselves) of a former outpatient building of the Greenpoint Hospital in Brooklyn. The great thing about interactive plays is – no visit is ever performed the same way twice. Your imagination has no limits. It is quite exhilarating to watch a story unfold before your eyes at a moment in time that both audience member and character exist in together.
The stage is set as you enter the building one-by-one and given very specific directions. The eery music and atmosphere of the place does not put my heart at ease. It was as if I stepped into someone’s nightmare and will be trapped in here for the next two hours. The group was led into what seemed to be an intake room filled with cabinets of drugs and scattered patient files from this asylum. Each one of us is handed a different set of keys that is suppose to open certain locks throughout the play. Nothing is really explained to us for the next couple of minutes til “the doctor” shows up with an ice-cold smile on her face. We were encouraged to tap into our inner curiousity and explore anything in the room, but DO NOT open any locked doors at ANY time. “Speak only when spoken to.” We were separated and led to different rooms by new characters entering the play.
It could be a bit intimidating if you’ve never experienced an interactive play. I could feel my friend’s fear and anxiousness as we were being led to our first room. It was dark and small, and in the corner we meet our first character – the White Queen. “It’s bedtime – let me tell you a story. Lay down.” I just suddenly felt a stream of fear rush through me and my heart beat out of sync as we follow her directions. She finishes and closes the door behind her leaving us free to explore the room. It was like putting pieces of a puzzle together and trying to make sense of every detail in the room. Just as we were looking through bits and pieces of letters, another character enters – the Mad Hatter. You have to get use to the fact that these characters just walk by you as if you don’t exist in the room, and you have to move out of their way as they frantically prance around the confined space. It was like Alice and Wonderland in trippy asylum world.
We are wandering into different rooms as we are led deeper into the story. You pass by and exchange a smile with characters you will probably interact with later. The play keeps the audience on a close leash with designated routes which lets each participant experience the story differently. You soon notice the groups are getting smaller and smaller and soon you’re alone. Everything was happenening so fast – clues and bits of the story from the characters were fed to you as you move from one scene to another. You are encouraged to rummage through trunks and cabinets (which you may unlock with keys issued to you earlier) in rooms replete with palatial, ethereal Victorian regalia. Every piece of detail is carefully put there for a reason.
Nothing is explained as it’s happening and programs are given to you at the conclusion of the play.
I’ll leave the rest for your imagination. It’s worth a visit if you’ve never been to an interactive play. It awakens all your senses. “Then She Fell” welcomes you to enter Carroll’s life and work. If you’re not familiar with his work, you will have no idea who the characters are. Everyone appears to be out of their mind or hallucinating. What you will experience is the feeling of a child going about and keeping busy with self-important social rituals that makes no sense. Or feel as if you’re spying on adult activities that doesn’t seem to make sense either which makes this creepy and thrilling. “You might as well come in.”
Photo credits: Third Rail Projects