Some of you may know that I have been commissioned to write a play adaptation of Alice in Wonderland for our local theatre. I accepted the commission with all the nostalgic memory of the book and the excitement that someone actually wanted me to write for them.

That was my undoing. I went back and reread the book: not at all meant for the stage.

The plot is so flimsy as to be nearly nonexistent. The conflicts are thin, abrupt, and superficial. I still can’t quite figure out what Alice wants, and I’ve been thinking about it now for a couple of months. She doesn’t, as Dorothy does, seem to want to make her way back home. She doesn’t seem to want to stay there. She seems really to not care that much either way. She is, in fact, a character that I don’t care that much about.

The action asks more of a community theatre —Alice’s growing and shrinking, in particular— than most are able to visually deal with. It’s a bit like putting Spiderman on stage. Sounds great, until you do it. Part of my concern with this aspect is that I really want this adaptation to “get legs” as those in the industry might put it. That means that I need to write it in way that makes it easy and interesting for other community theatres and schools to produce. I would like to make a little money from this piece.

And, most difficult, it is a book of its time, in that it moves from one Victorian allusion to another. For example, the most famous scene, the tea party scene, includes three iconic Victorian characters: a Mad Hatter, a March Hare, and a Dormouse. A Victorian might hear those words and instantly connect. Mad Hatter: hatters made hats using mercury, because of that they had a reputation for being a bit mentally unstable. March Hare: a rabbit during breeding season that jumps around like he’s suffering from St. Vitus’ Dance. Dormouse: known for its long hibernation. But for the contemporary kid —yea, I might say most contemporary adults — these allusions are lost. Not mention the Mock Turtle. Still can’t wrap my mind around that one, even though I know what it is.

So, I have spent the last two months absolutely bound up in creative paralysis, writer’s block, ineffectual plotting, and self-doubt. It’s been fun.

Well the rubber is now on the road, as my first due date is nigh approaching: August 14th. I need to have the characters and treatment done. I have been riding a system of rogue waves with crests of relief at new ideas and troughs of despair at my inability to work this thing out. It’s a bit tiring.

This is what binds me; The issue: Do I try to stay true to the script and let the director deal with the issues? or Do I rewrite the story into a more stage-friendly format and, in doing so, change it from its original intent, molding it into a totally new story, that simply nods to the original. The binding agent is audience expectation. What will they come expecting to see? Should I take that into account, or just blaze away and hope they find substance and entertainment in my take on the story.

In an odd way making this decision takes courage. And I’m finding that I am not as courageous as I would like to be.

On a side note —or maybe not— we were sitting down to dinner the other night. My wife and I were talking about our day, our six week-old eating at the mom-buffet, the other in his food-chair, babbling contentedly to himself. Suddenly my two year-old thrust his left arm into the air and shouted —clearly and unmistakably— “Chaaaaaaaaaarge!”

Neither my wife nor I have ever said that to him. We don’t know where he got it. Sometimes he speaks like an elemental conduit to the powers of the universe. So I got the message.

So, whether Alice becomes my victorious Omaha or my disastrous Waterloo, I must charge ahead. I just hope I’m one of Henry’s valiant Band of Brothers, not Tennyson’s ravaged Six Hundred.