Get to know the faces of Alice: Ben Blount

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In anticipation of our opening weekend, we wanted to introduce the folks who are putting together Alice with a short n’ sweet interview.

Chapter 1 of Alice is an art installation wherein about 10 different local artists were asked to create their interpretation of the first chapter of Alice in Wonderland using their own unique style.

Today, our blog focus is on one of those Chapter 1 artists: Ben Blount.

Ben Blount was born and raised in Detroit. He is a designer and letterpress printer who loves type and putting ink on paper. Sometimes he turns what he prints into books. His work explores questions and race and identity and the stories we tell ourselves about living in America. Truth-tellers and rabble-rousers in all areas of popular culture inspire his work—from Dave Chapelle and Kara Walker to Mos Def and Amos Kennedy. He learned a lot about design at Washington University in St. Louis, a lot about printing at Columbia College Chicago, and filled in the gaps with mentors and lots of practice.

Would you rather grow as large as a house or shrink to the size of a mouse?

Large as a house.

What part of Chapter 1 inspired your piece?

Almost the last line of the chapter. Alice had so many strange and interesting things happen to her that she was surprised and disappointed that nothing wondrous happened when she first tasted the tiny cake. I related it to our tendency to take life for granted and get stuck in the everyday and mundane. I see it as the call to take a trip down the rabbit hole.

 What character from Alice in Wonderland do you most identify with? 

Alice. She’s an adventurer. One of my favorite quotes is attributed to Helen Keller. “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

 Where is your Wonderland?

In the studio. Either making something or collaborating or teaching. Being around creative people, making stuff.

Come and see Ben’s piece entitled: “Ask Alice” in Chapter 1 of Alice www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3565892 and check out Ben’s work at www.benblount.com.

Get to Know the Faces of Alice: Caitlin Savage

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In anticipation of our opening weekend, we wanted to introduce the folks who are putting together Alice with a short n' sweet interview. Caitlin Savage is up next!

Would you rather grow as large as a house or shrink to the size of a mouse?

Shrink! I like to scurry under the radar. 

What are you most looking forward to in this production of Alice?

I was a part of the 2004 production, and it was as weird and wonderful as the book is. I loved every minute of it. I was sad to miss the second run. I was having a baby. I guess it was worth it. Anyway, I can't wait to see how this version comes together! Plus, I really love wearing bunny ears. 

What character from Alice in Wonderland do you most identify with? 

I have a soft spot for Bill the lizard. One minute, you're minding your own business, just trying to do your job, and the next minute, you're kicked up a chimney like a reptilian Santa Claus in reverse. Who can't relate to that? If I'm being honest, though, these days I probably most identify with the insouciant old Father William. I am indeed old, but as a children's librarian I spend much of my time shake, shake, shaking my sillies out, much to the chagrin of my eye-rolling elder child. It's mortifying. He's mortified. Moooooooooooom. Like Father William, I, as the kids say, DNGAF. 

Where is your Wonderland?

The thrift store! I've been an avid thrifter for overt 20 years. The sounds! The smells! Another man's treasure! Could there be a place more wondrous? On my last trip I found a lovely antique lasagna pan, and a real classy ceramic unicorn lamp. Wonderland. 

Tickets for Alice are on sale now, visit brownpapertickets.com for more info!

Get to Know the Faces of Alice: Corrbette Pasko

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In anticipation of our opening weekend, we wanted to introduce the folks who are putting together Alice with a short n' sweet interview. Today we're featuring Corbette Pasko! You can find her work at corrbette.com and on social media @corrbette.

Would you rather grow as large as a house or shrink to the size of a mouse?

As much as I've struggled not being able to reach things (T-Rex arms and a short frame), I still think I'd prefer mouse size. I imagine house size as very lonely, as the only things that big are inanimate objects who can't talk to you. I do that enough already, apologizing to chairs for bumping into them, etc.

What are you most looking forward to in this production of Alice?

This will be my third time on this show, and I've seen it differently every time, and with every tour. I was an atmosphere performer (a "Bill") the first time, and a rabbit a couple of years ago. This time. I'm a rabbit and I contributed one of the location pieces for The Factory Theater with Sara Sevigny. Brian explosion! I've seen so many cool performers and art and wow! Plus, it's in Evanston this time - I might get lost. Showing the actors in the Factory piece what this show can be is so exciting, and I can't wait for them to experience it for themselves.

What character from Alice in Wonderland do you most identify with? 

The white rabbit. I swearddagod I'm late to be in the next room right now.

Where is your Wonderland? 

If I can make a space out of someone's laugh, then it's my daughter's. If that creates too many weird issues with hygiene, and that's totally legit, then it's in the space where she cries, "FAMILY HUG!" and the three of us huddle as she puts her cheek on my cheek to make sure I'm there. Was it an easy shot to go right to the "my kid is my whole heart" thing? Yes. Is it undeniably true? YES. I used to think making other people laugh was my happy place, and it still is. But...come on. I have a kid. Named Gilda. You think I'm NOT gonna answer with her? What am I, a monster?

Tickets for Alice are on sale now, visit brownpapertickets.com for more info!

Get to Know the Faces of Alice: Chad the Bird

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In anticipation of our opening weekend, we wanted to introduce the folks who are putting together Alice with a short n' sweet interview. Chad the Bird is up next! A little intro from the man (bird) himself: Chad the Bird is into pizza, Star Wars, and You! For 8 years, he has been the Avian Op-Ed columnist for Chicago's Finest Live Magazine THE PAPER MACHETE live from the historic Green Mill Lounge every Saturday at 3pm and still is (hopefully when you're reading this, if he isn't anymore it's probs cuz he was eaten by a shark, that's the only explanation). You can be a part of the Chadsperience by subscribing to his weekly podcast CHAD THE PODCAST on iTunes and get at him on Facebook and Instagram (ChadBurd) and Twitter (ChadtheBird)." 

-Would you rather grow as large as a house or shrink to the size of a mouse?

Wait, those are the options? That's it? That's some zero-sum game stuff for sure... no don't cut my mic, you need to hear this (loud noises) THE WORLD IS MORE COMPLICATED! NOTHING IS BLACK AND WHITE! BIG AND SMALL ARE RELATIVE! DON'T BELIEVE THE LIE! ... (panting) ... ummm, I guess "large as a house" so I wouldn't have to take the stairs ever again. Stairs are dumb, sorry for yelling. 

-What are you most looking forward to in this production of Alice?

The food. Evanston has some KICKIN places, like Edzo's, THAT'S a jam. Also the people, they're nice. 

-What character from Alice in Wonderland do you most identify with? 

The Cheshire Cat: He's the only one in Wonderland that's got his own thing goin and couldn't be bothered with taking sides. Also the white rabbit cuz he's always late for stuff. 

-Where is your Wonderland? 

That'd be a Star Wars-themed Pizza-Arcade that's also has a roller coaster, obv. 

Tickets for Alice are on sale now, visit brownpapertickets.com for more info!

 

Get to Know the Faces of Alice: John Byrnes

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In anticipation of our opening weekend, we wanted to introduce the folks who are putting together Alice with a short n' sweet interview. John Byrnes is out first feature, and will be performing as a White Rabbit during select shows. 

-Would you rather grow as large as a house or shrink to the size of a mouse? 

Definitely a mouse. Vast spaces tend to promulgate tyranny. (I read that somewhere.) Mostly, I just never grew out of the pleasure brought by crawling through small spaces.

-What are you most looking forward to in this production of Alice?

Ummm...This will probably be the closest I will come to playing 007, so there's that. I also very much enjoy unexpected adventures. While this will not be entirely unexpected, I suspect the real adventure will reveal itself differently with each performance. Not to mention, Noey is, like, smart n' stuff.

-What character from Alice in Wonderland do you most identify with? 

This is a hard one. I think everyone can identify with Alice. I will say this...I prefer dogs to cats, but I also love Cheshire slivers of moon.

-Where is your Wonderland?

Well, I grew up not far from a dog racing track called Wonderland, but that's rather disgusting. I would say my hometown, Marshfield, MA. It is quite magical. It is where seals stop by twice a year to bask in the sun. It is where dolphins take a respite from relentless maelstroms. It is the home of the first trans-Atlantic radio broadcast. (They played "Oh, Holy Night", one of my favorite holiday songs.) It is a place haunted by sailors and Pilgrims (Yes, those very Pilgrims.) It is a place where the mist rolls in at dawn and dusk. It is the only place I know that could drape a Hardy or Melville novel and still earn the nickname, Marshvegas. (That makes more sense if you pronounce it like a Bostonian.)

 

Tickets for Alice are on sale now, visit brownpapertickets.com for more info!

Opening Weekend of Alice - Perfectly Proud

Well, Alice officially opened this weekend.  In fact, it is already 1/6 of the way finished.  Just like that.

I am so very proud of this show.

As I watched people walk through the neighborhood following their bunnies, I was delighted to see that almost 100% of them seemed to be wearing perma-smiles.  A nice couple from New York spoke to me at length on the street.  They said that they are avid theater goers and that they had seen, and enjoyed, Sleep No More in NYC but that they were pretty sure Alice is better…and they couldn’t believe this was opening weekend…and the woman asked if she could put it all down in writing for me to share.  I hope she does!
Flitting from tour to tour, speaking to artists between performances, I happened to walk behind a couple of 20-something girls on Emmy’s tour.  Heavily tattooed and way too cool to be gushing openly about theater on the street, one of them turned to her friend and said “My mind is BLOWN.  This is all just TOO MUCH!”
Those smiles, those conversations, made me proud.

I’m proud of the work of these artists – numbering over 50 on any given day – who are dedicated to the purpose of creating art and magic and whimsy.  Alice is joyful.  It’s a celebration at every turn.

On Saturday, I sat on a bench out of sight and listened to the white rabbits performing their final monologues.  Beautiful.  Perfect theater makes you laugh one moment, gasp the next, and get a lump in your throat or a tear in your eye at some point along the way.  Alice does all of those things.  And I’m not tooting my own horn when I write this.  The artists did that.  They all created their own pieces.  Everything at the table was brought by the artists and it is a bounty.  I merely set up the table and asked them to join me.  (Now, am I tooting my own horn when I tell you that I am a master in the art of inviting the right people to the table?  Yes.  I’ll take credit for that much.  I sent the emails and made the phone calls).

But I think the moment that made me most proud came on Saturday afternoon near the end of the final chapter on the final tour.  Phil’s group was watching Sid and Amanda at Jameson Loves Danger and Sophisticated Cornbread were waiting at the southwest corner of Clark and Foster to take over with Chapter 12. Bills (the street ambience people) were roaming about nearby. A man on a bicycle had what looked to be a seizure while riding across the intersection.  He fell from his bike…hard…and landed, unconscious and twisted, in the middle of the intersection.  Sophisticated Cornbread all immediately ran into the street, surrounded his body, and began directing traffic while also calling 911. 

Members of the Alice cast spoke with police, gave eye-witness reports, and even had the wherewithal to lock the bike up in an office in the theater so that he can get it when he recovers. Greg Allen heard from his wife today, he is up and about and will fully recover.  I think he owes a lot to some quick-thinking slam poets.

Phil intercepted his group, explained that there had been an accident, and rerouted them straight back to the theater.  Once there, he abandoned his final monologue for an impromptu reflection on the frailty of life and the importance of living in the moment, holding your loved ones a little tighter, and finding the magic that is all around us.

Their behavior – all of them – was heroic.

So I’m proud of the art and I’m proud of the humans behind the art and I’m proud of the audiences who have been completely game and downright enthusiastic about the whole show and I’m proud of the wonderful business owners who trust us with their spaces and their customers. 

I hope you come and see these amazing people in this show.  You have 5 weekends left.

-Noelle

Why Alice? Why Now?

It was requested that I answer that question for the initial press release that went out a couple weeks ago. 
"Why are you remounting Alice?"
Well, first of all, I'm not sure it qualifies as a remount.  A remount would be basically the same show.  This Alice is all new and only the structure is remaining the same.  And, as we learned in 2004, the structure really works.  So why NOT remount it?
So, the answer is:
20% because I used the structure in 2004 and people really liked it and it worked.
20% because I wanted to start my own company and I wanted to launch it with something that I knew would generate buzz.  Alice is just weird enough and just wild enough to generate a lot of buzz while still being totally accessible to everyone.
20% because this is the 10th anniversary of the original production that I did for The Neo-Futurists in 2004 and even though that may only be significant to me, it is significant to me.
40% because what I learned from the first time I did Alice is that it inspires people to see the wonder in their ordinary surroundings and I think we can agree that we need to see more wonder in our every day lives right now. Amiright?

Do you have your tickets yet? 

Don't sit in the dark and wait to be entertained.  Be Alice.  Chase the rabbit!

-Noelle