December 19, 1992
Thalia Theater, Hamburg, Germany.
Directed and designed
by Robert Wilson
Text adapted by Paul Schmidt
from the work of Lewis
Songs by Tom Waits/Kathleen Brennan
Costumes by Frida
Principal Cast: Annette Paulman and Stefan Kurt
ased on Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland and Through the
Looking Glass, Robert Wilson's Alice is the second in a
trilogy that began with The Black Rider (1990) and ends with Time
The principal characters are Alice (who is both the
fictional character and her real-life model, Alice Liddell) and the
author, Charles L. Dodgson, both of whom appear in various guises
throughout the production.
The songs by Tom Waits are presented as
intersections with the text, rather than as expansions of the story, as
would be the case in conventional musical theater.
Robert Wilson on 'Alice'
had two acts based on the two Alice books with seven scenes and
seven knee plays each. The whole play
is framed by Charles Dodgson alias Lewis Carroll. Dodgson alias the White Rabbit alias the White Knight
guides Alice through the play.
It starts with Dodgson attempting to photograph Alice, and how, fleeing from him, she falls into Wonderland."
"Scene four shows Alice Liddell, now grown up,
alone, drinking. Scene eleven shows Charles Dodgson alone, sleepless.
The finale of each act (scenes seven and fourteen) is a trial
scene, in which first Alice, then Dodgson are found guilty of this
After their successful collaboration on "The Black Rider" (1990), Robert Wilson, Tom Waits and Paul Schmidt teamed up again for "Alice".
The scenic concept had been worked out by Robert Wilson, Paul Schmidt and Wolfgang Wiens in August 1991.
The first try-outs were in February/ March 1992, and the songs of Tom Waits (and Kathleen Brennan-Waits) were added during the second try-outs in November/ December 1992.
Tom Waits never released any songs from the "Alice" works at the time and there were only a few recorded (live) performances known, so for years the play remained kind of a mystery, only attended by a happy few.
Thalia Theater, Hamburg/ Germany: Dec. 19, 1992 - Jan. 1993
Theater am Pfalzbau, Ludwigshaven/ Germany: Feb. 7-11, 1993
Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisbon/ Portugal: Mar. 12-14, 1994
Teatro Vittorio Emmanuele, Massina/ Italy: June 4-6, 1994
Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York City/ USA: Oct. 6-8, 10-14, 1995
UPDATE JULY 2002: After nearly ten years, Tom Waits has finally recorded and released his "Alice" tracks, along with songwriting and life partner Kathleen Brennan. "Alice" forgoes the usual nightmare lyric sequences, warped, circus-like melodies, and sonic darknesses that have been part and parcel of Waits' work. Instead, this song cycle is, for the most part, steeped in jazz ballads, old waltzes, European folk songs, theatrical love paeans, and music not so easily identified. The set opens with the title track, a smoky jazz ballad with a lyric is plaintive lyric, full of pathos; it's almost a suicide note set to the most romantic melodic invention lounge jazz is capable of. As Waits sings, "The only strings that hold me here/Are tangled up around the pier/And so a secret kiss/Brings madness with the bliss/And I will think of this/When I'm dead and in my grave/Set me adrift/I'm lost over there/But I must be insane/To go on skating on your name/And by tracing it twice I feel through the ice/Of Alice/There's only Alice." Ghosts whisper in the mix, spirits float through the air, and demons passionately possess the protagonists.
Extracted from a review by Thom Jurek for "All Music Guide". Thanks to Cecile Schaeffer for the news of the CD release.