Oxford, England’s historic city, and the surrounding area will be the great stage for considerably curious goings-on this July 7, 2012.
Why July 7, 2012?
“All in a summer’s afternoon full leisurely we glide; for both our oars, with little skill, by little hands are plied…” — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
July 7, 2012 is the beginning of a weekend of Alice-related events celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first telling of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to Alice Liddell and her sisters. The Alice story begins at Christ Church, Oxford.
Why Christ Church in Oxford?
“And what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations?”
— Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
It was at Christ Church, Oxford that Charles Dodgson (pen name Lewis Carroll) first met the children of then-Dean Henry Liddell (head of the College). Their names were Harry, Alice, Lorina and Edith. Dodgson was photographing the College Cathedral from the Deanery garden. While in the process, he was approached by Alice and her two sisters who wanted to be photographed. A friendship blossomed and they became regular visitors to his rooms, and Dodgson to their nursery. During the long process of sitting to have their photographs taken, Dodgson would tell the children stories to keep them entertained. He was inspired by familiar things and people in the surrounding town when telling these stories. Hence, Christ Church College and other parts Oxford played a very important part in the creation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Since 2008, the Story Museum of Oxford has produced Alice’s Day to celebrate Carroll’s famous stories. “This year being the 150th anniversary, we have some special events lined up to make the weekend extra special,” said The Story Museum’s Marketing and Communications Director, Cath Nightingale. Special events such as performances by Curious Company.
Why Curious Company?
“Every time I perform I am inspired by the encounters I have with complete strangers, privileged encounters allowed only by the rules of fantasy and the imagination.”
— Louise Rennie, producer/performer/owner of Curious Company.
My daughter Gabriella and I first experienced Curious Company in 2008. And if you come to our book signing at Waterstone’s in Oxford on July 7, you will discover why we featured them in our book, The Real Alice in Wonderland. On Alice’s Day, Curious Company will be staging another one of its now famously innovative Alice in Wonderland themed performances on the streets and in other public spaces around the city of Oxford. This gem of a theatrical organization revels in bringing something magical and memorable to each presentation that guarantees to take everyone down the rabbit hole and show him a really good time. “We are gatekeepers to Wonderland,” explains Louise Rennie. “We make theater that wraps itself around the audience; they stop being audience if they even ever thought they were in the first place.” On July 7, performances are built around the themes of Cards and Croquet.
Why the Cards?
“Why the fact is, you see, Miss, this here ought to have been a red rose-tree and we put a white one in by mistake; and if the Queen was to find out, we should all have our heads cut off.”
— Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
The Cards have a simple but important job to do in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and that is to paint the roses RED! The penalty for failure is fatal, so their motivation is strong. What can we expect from Curious Company’s 5-handed card game?
“Being cards as well as soldiers,” explains Louise, “they perform complex and seemingly pointless marching routines all prompted by the language of card games, such as ‘cut’, ‘split’ and ‘shuffle’, and offer up card tricks to order. With healthy doses of slapstick, acrobatics, clowning and contemporary dance, the Cards animate all manner of spaces and will amuse all kinds of audiences.”
The Cards will be dealt at The Story Museum in Oxford. All bids are raised as they split through the town to the Ashmolean Museum before shuffling across to the Museum of Natural History to play a game of Croquet with the Queen.
“The Queen! The Queen!” — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
On Alice’s Day when the Queen barks, “You DO play croquet!” members of the audience need to say “Yes!” and give her their best curtsey or bow. You will already know if you are a hoop or a hedgehog, so it is just a matter of whose team you are on. Either way, be prepared to keep the Queen happy. And if the Queen is in one of her moods (which is more than likely), you need to do what she tells you. Remember, the Queen likes to be flattered. Presents are good too.
The Rules of the Game?
“Rules? What rules?” says Louise. “Alice doesn’t have a chance!”
Why July 8, 2012?
“What is a Caucus Race?” asked Alice. — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
On Sunday, July 8, the day before the Olympic flame passes through Oxford, the organizers of Alice’s Day are turning convention on its head with their own eccentric forerunner to the Olympic Games. In the spirit of the original story, the Caucus Race is a…
“No room, No room!” cried the Editor.
Find out more about Alice’s Day in upcoming articles…
Photos courtesy of Curious Company.
C. M. Rubin is the author of two widely read online series for which she received a 2011 Upton Sinclair award, “The Global Search for Education” and “How Will We Read?” She is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland.
Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@cmrubinworld
At the request of J.K. Rowling, the blockbuster Harry Potter films were set entirely in Britain. Many of the Hogwart’s School scenes were filmed at Oxford University, centered at one of Oxford’s most magnificent colleges, Christ Church. The historic locations used at the College included the setting for Hogwart’s staircase, where schoolchildren are greeted upon their arrival, the Great Hall, which became Hogwart’s dining room, and Oxford’s Bodleian Library, which provided the setting for Hogwart’s infirmary. Christ Church College, founded by Henry VIII in 1546, was also used by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) as the setting for his Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass books.
The Christ Church math professor, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), became good friends with the children of Christ Church Dean, Henry Liddell, in the 1850’s and 60’s. He was especially close to Alice Liddell, the Dean’s fourth child who became Carroll’s inspiration for his heroine, Alice in Wonderland. Carroll used Alice Liddell’s familiar surroundings as the setting for the story which he wrote for her in 1864. The Great Hall (Hogwart’s dining room), where Carroll ate his meals, holds many Wonderland secrets. It is believed that the real “rabbit hole” is the door that the Dean used to get to the senior common room. Henry Liddell himself is thought to be Carroll’s inspiration for the White Rabbit
C. M. Rubin’s and Gabriella’s Rubin’s bestselling book, The Real Alice In Wonderland, features stunning photographs of many of the same Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland locations which inspired these blockbuster books (and films). The Authors, who are descendants of the real Alice, spent time in Oxford as guests of the current Dean of Christ Church researching their book, and discovered how large a part the college played in not only the creation of the Harry Potter films, but also in the creation of the Alice in Wonderland books. The Rubins’ story behind the story takes readers to many other Oxford locations, including Alice’s garden at Christ Church, the original Cheshire Cat tree, the river banks where Carroll was urged to create his story by Alice, and to the Oxford museums to view the many Wonderland treasures held there today.
Authors Gabriella and C.M. Rubin doing research at Christ Church.
A visit and tour of Oxford town and Christ Church College is a must for fans of Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland, but first you can discover many of the sights and wonders in C. M. Rubin’s and Gabriella Rubin’s book, The Real Alice in Wonderland, on sale in bookstores nationally.Look Inside The Real Alice Book