Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Upended Productions’ ALICE is an immersive, ambulatory theatrical experience in which groups of audience members assume the role of Lewis Carroll’s befuddled heroine as she stumbles about Wonderland. In this case, Wonderland has been a stretch of several blocks and stores in Evanston, Illinois, with a variety of artists creating original interpretations of individual chapters from the book and then performing them in succession as each new group of Alices are led their way by their White Rabbit tour guide.
This is the third unique production of this piece, created and curated by my fellow Neo-Futurist alum Noelle Krimm. I’ve been fortunate to participate in each of them, first in 2004 with a piece depicting the trial of Alice in the Court of the King and Queen of Hearts; and last time in 2014 with a chaotic rendition of the Vale of Tears / Dodo Caucus.
This time around I was charged with creating a unique solo piece for Chapter 5, “Advice from a Caterpillar,” which took place in a longtime Evanston landmark, the Chicago-Main newsstand. The slightly sinister jazz poem I delivered below was underscored by a looped instrumental track by late Japanese DJ and composer Seba Jun, who performed under the name Nujabes:
(Alice and the Rabbit enter the newsstand, encountering the Caterpillar on a seat reading to himself from a folder. He wears three pairs of sunglasses and a suit of green-and-gold. He seems perplexed to be meeting anybody at all.)
I’ll be brief.
When I say “I’ll be brief” you might think that it means
I won’t talk for very long.
Which is not what I mean, although:
I will also not talk very long.
I say I’ll be brief as I’m led to believe that we are, all of us, brief.
Annuals and perennials.
A twinkle in the eye of a star that died
before its light ever landed in the iris of an eye.
We are all of us brief.
We are also all of us different.
Not only from each other but also from ourselves.
From moment to moment.
Segment to segment.
Transformations and transitions
through the entirety of our brevity.
He is not she is not they is not them is not we is not us is not other.
You are not you from the last time I met you.
I am not; I am exactly the same.
We as a mass of a massive morass.
Individuals but indivisible.
This is not news to you
nor is it new to you.
This is a knowledge you already knew.
And knowing as you do what you already knew,
Yet continue, you do, to nonetheless fret
If the way that you do all the things that you do
is the right way to do all the things you are doing.
Let me tell you.
Begin with the question of how to begin.
Because being begs questions of how one began.
Recall all the carbon that coalesced into coal…
and the cold that compelled us to burn it.
The furnaces formed from the fires that we freed.
The forests and furs and the foraging.
Remember the manner by which meaning…was manufactured.
The ways that the words would be welded together to be dwelled in as worlds.
To be wielded as weapons.
How we synthesized sentience in the science of sentences.
Information formed into formulaiac formats.
Prepared and printed and digitized for digestion.
Do you see what I’m saying?
A constant convention of conceptual content.
Conversely converted into cruel conversation.
Distractions left distant as you try to decide
the size that you think that you are.
These are the things that consume you.
These are the things you consume.
And what you consume may change you.
While too much you consume may destroy you.
Make you bubble and bulge til you bust at the seams
and break through your sense of the scenery.
Leave you so little room in the wreck of your reckoning
until all you can do to recover your quiet
is quilt yourself into quiescence.
But inside of the chrysalis
you still cry out for solace.
You learn that the loneliness alone leaves you longing.
So you stew and you steam
You shift and you wriggle
Grow wings from your back and grow eyes on the wings
And the beast you become is now much better suited
to pursue your perceived perseverance.
And should I tell you: “Keep your temper.”
You might think that it means you should keep yourself calm.
But I say “keep your temper” not to keep yourself calm
Because calm is a temperament temporarily tempered
And the truth is that temperatures at which you may boil
Come at times when you need to make changes.
Let me summon the summary thusly.
“Keep your temper.”
That is the lesson I leave you.
Now leave me, unless you’d be lessened.
(The Caterpillar returns to his seat. Alice and the Rabbit depart.)