Like most of you, I have seen various versions of Alice in Wonderland in my life. Of course, there is the Disney animated classic feature as well as the newer live action movie directed by Tim Burton. Then there was a two-part mini-series in the 80’s that starred actors like Ben Vereen and Carol Channing. In addition, I have seen several stagings of the show performed in children’s theaters. No matter what the medium, Alice has always been told for a family audience, but after reading the novel many years ago, it deals with some very adult themes.
Between eating mushrooms that make you seem to grow larger, a hookah smoking caterpillar or a Cheshire cat that only leaves his smile in full view – it is dripping with drug references. As a matter of fact, one can call Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole one large hallucinogenic dream. A little known fact about Alice in Wonderland’s author, Lewis Carroll, was his fascination with photography.
The majority of those photographs are of young girls, children, who are often seen half-dressed or completely naked. The plot thickens as the Wonderland books actually center around a real girl named Alice Liddell, who Lewis Carroll was fascinated with and has many pictures of that survive to this day. If the relationship was innocent, sexual or some sort of desire in between, the world may never know.
Then She Fell, located in an unassuming building in the middle of Brooklyn, takes many of these adult themes of Alice in Wonderland and Lewis Carroll’s personal life to create a unique immersive show for adults only.
Those of you who are fans of TPU know that I have a small obsession with immersive theater – a new trend where the audience is an active participant in the show and there are no seats, or theater, involved. Shows like Sleep No More and Drip have paved the way for even more intense experiences and Then She Fell brings theater goers to that next level.
Then She Fell allows only 15 audience members to enter Lewis Carroll’s bizarre world per show. Upon arriving, guests are given a unique set of keys that can unlock various cabinets, drawers and doors throughout each of the many rooms you can investigate. All audience members must be at least 21 years-of-age, as certain “Eat Me” and “Drink Me” opportunities arise throughout the show where guests can partake in a unique elixir, candy or hors d’oeuvres that are offered in various rooms – all drinks are alcoholic and everything is included with admission.
Unlike Sleep No More, there are no masks in this show, the only true rule is: don’t speak unless spoken to. There is no more intimate experience on the planet than Then She Fell. Even with only 15 audience members, expect to be paired up with complete strangers in certain scenes, while other times you are completely alone with the actors. It’s incredible to have a one on one experience where you get to talk directly to Alice or the Red Queen.
The underlying theme of the show is maybe there was a forbidden love affair going on between Lewis Carroll and Alice. Scattered throughout each of the rooms are various love notes that the two sent to each other over the years.
In addition, they may talk about each other in the most vague way possible, but they definitely take artistic liberty that they are fond of each other at the very least.
Instead of having free reign over the building, audience members are guided from one room to the next by the characters. You can criss-cross paths with several other audience members, but the majority of the show you are completely alone with Alice, The Mad Hatter, The Red Queen and even Lewis Carroll.
It’s hard to write about a show like Then She Fell because in order to truly understand how special the show is, you need to see it through fresh eyes and let it happen to you. Spoiling it will ruin the show as a big part of it’s success is the element of surprise. That said, I will describe the first scene I was a part of, as best I can.
I am ushered into a small room that is only big enough for a small table, two chairs and a set of four filing cabinets lining the far wall. A hanging lamp dangles above the table and I am told to have a seat and wait. After about two minutes, the door I entered opens again. A man in his early 20s enters in gray slacks, a white shirt and a white button down vest. He holds a wooden cane in his right hand topped with a rabbit head carved from ivory. He closes the door behind him, smiles, and taps the cane on the table top.
He then leaps on the table, with me still sitting in a chair about two feet away. He takes the lamp hanging above us and pushes it so it swings like a pendulum over my head and he starts to dance on the table, avoiding it as it swings. After a quick leap, he jumps on top of the filing cabinets where he continues to spin around, split and dance just for me – never losing direct eye contact for more than two seconds.
After a few minutes of this, he slides down the front of the filing cabinets, landing in the seat placed directly across from me. We stare at each other for a few moments. Then, without breaking eye contact, he reaches behind him and opens a filing cabinet and pulls out two place mats and places one in front of each of us. Next, from another cabinet, he pulls out two white roses and places one on each of our place mats.
Seconds later, he pops open another drawer and pulls out two paint brushes. Finally, a jar of red paint comes out and is placed between us on the table. He opens the jar and dips his brush in and waits for me to reciprocate. I do, and within seconds, we are actually painting white roses red. It was silent, charming and an absolute thrill to actually be doing this.
After several minutes, he screws the lid back on top of the jar and we both take our still wet roses and dash down the hall. He opens a door to an entirely different room filled with dozens of roses hanging from the ceiling to dry. We place our freshly painted additions on a small wooden table and leave.
He leads me into an office with an antique roll top desk and an oversized leather chair. The white rabbit then turns to leave and closes the door behind me, leaving me alone to explore for several minutes. A quick knock at the door startles me and before I could answer, an older gentleman in black tails, a black vest and a pocket watch enters the room. Before I could get a good look at him, he approaches me with a clipboard and an old fashioned pen and asks, “Do you take dictation?”
Now I would just love to go on and on about what I saw at Then She Fell, but what fun would that be? To truly get the full experience, you really need to head over to ThenSheFell.com and buy tickets for this show so you can have your own story to tell your friends. Be aware, at only 15 audience members per show, this sells out months in advance. My entire trip to New York City last month revolved around seeing this, and it didn’t disappoint.
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