The Afterlife of Alice In Wonderland Exhibit: Adaptations

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    There have been many adaptations and appropriations of Carroll’s story and Tenniel’s images of Alice, not only by a variety of writers and artists, but also by musicians, paper engineers, advertisers, gamers, playwrights, film producers, toy manufacturers and medical researchers.  Yes, Alice has a syndrome named after her, the Alice In Wonderland Syndrome (AIWS) whose sufferers have a feeling that their entire body or parts of it have been altered in shape and size. 

Dowling AliceOne early adaptation was written by Carroll himself, who, in 1890, wrote and published a version of the story in simple language entitled The Nursery Alice, intended for children “from ought to five.”  In 1908 an edition with “words of one-syllable” appeared.  This was achieved by simply dividing multiple syllable words up into individual syllables with dashes between them.   When toy books became popular in the 1930’s many artists took on the challenge of creating movables for the Alice story, and more recently, James Roger Diaz and Robert Sabuda have produced intricate and stunning pop-up versions.  Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland has been published as a Big Little Book, a Little Golden Book, a comic book, a graphic novel, a video game and numerous picture books.  In 1951, the Disney animated film established a new ubiquitous version of both text and characters for the post war generation.

All those efforts were pointed primarily toward the child audience, but many adaptations have also been created specifically for more mature audiences.  The story has inspired numerous live performances, including plays, musicals, and operas.  It was first made into a play as early as 1886, when Alice In Wonderland, a musical theater production by H. Saville Clark and Walter Slaughter, played at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London.  Eva LeGallienne and Florida Friebus wrote a version for the stage in 1932 adding many modern political and pop-culture references.  The play was successfully performed on Broadway, with LeGallienne in the lead role.  As the playbills in the exhibit case suggest, different versions of the play have been performed in a variety of venues from professional theater to the high school stage.  It has inspired many composers, singers, and song writers, who have produced musical adaptations from a fully scored symphony to Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” sung at the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969.  The latter performance is included in this exhibit as a video clip.   

Toy manufacturers and knick-knack producers have had a field day with the images of Alice, the Cheshire Cat, the Hatter, the March Hare and all the other characters that inhabit Alice’s fantasy world. Chess sets, mugs, beanie babies and other items scattered throughout the cases of the exhibit provide just a few examples of such appropriations.

And finally, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland has been translated into many different languages, including native languages throughout the world, and every translation is its own unique adaptation.  ~ © 2007 Rita Smith