photo collage from Annie, Fantastics, and Chicago of characters reading news

Alice Director’s Note

I have wanted to produce Alice in Wonderland with Phamaly for years. In essence, the story is a delightful adventure filled with unique, zany, colorful characters who exist in their own reality and are entirely unapologetic about who they are. That is Phamaly to a “tea.” [sic…haha]

It also resonates with the “wonderlands” that we in the disability community regularly encounter in our everyday lives, filled with absurdities. These alternative realities are not the mainstream, and, often, non-disabled folks don’t even know they exist (well, at least not until something happens to plunge them in).

For one of Phamaly’s first Vox Phamalia shows over ten years ago, I played Alice in a mini-play where she was sucked into the rabbit hole of modern health care as a person with a disability: nonsensical claim denials; the babbling jargon of insurance coding and coverage and prescription drugs; diagnoses and assessments that seem completely out of whack with reality; people trying to be helpful, but completely lacking any understanding of who you are; and feeling caught in an alternate universe/system from which there is no escape. An ideal metaphor.

Two years ago, I was on the prowl for the ultimate Phamaly-caliber version of Alice. It would have music as unique and other-worldly as Wonderland. It would be relatable for young people who are deluged by the overwhelm of the contemporary world and attempting to navigate their way through the confusion of social issues, stress, technology, and a constant nagging from the outside to curate the perfect personal identity. And, it would affirm Alice as a headstrong young human who isn’t simply ping-ponged and bandied about, but who has agency and power of self-determination…all within an awareness of the oft-ridiculousness of this thing we call “existence.”

At the time, this version didn’t exist. So, in the spirit of Phamaly-brand creation, I thought, “Let’s make our own!”

So began an epic Phamaly journey that got even epic-er: the company’s first play commission with the distinctive David Jacobi, the first music soundtrack commission with Denver’s own unparalleled experimental group Wheelchair Sports Camp, and a pop-up pandemic thrown in for good measure. It has been a wild ride anchored by creation in its most pure and mad form.

As we have all faced the inconceivable realities of the last year – persisting through the unpredictability of life on Earth, the immeasurability of time and temporal expectations, and the constant barrage of our own brains in the absence of human connection – Alice has continually revealed itself as the most wholly appropriate story for this moment in which we are breathing.

As we return to a room together, absorbing a story within feet of other beating hearts and processing minds, we the artists couldn’t be happier. Our Cheshire grins couldn’t be wider. The bits of madness are not over, but for an ephemeral moment, we choose to not overthink or overanalyze, but just unfold…and we hope you will join us.

Relax and embrace the madness, the joy, the human-filled space, the awareness of mortality, the colors and characters, and the incredibly fortunate opportunity we all have to BE in this Wonderland we call “life.”

Regan Linton