When I was first creating Have You Seen Alice?, the original title was the cringe-inducing Wombs in Motion.
Gawd. Â I was just writing in a notebook, which I do without much thought or direction, until something engages me enough to expound on. Like making decisions from your heart instead of your head, it has its perks and serious downfalls. My first draft moved like a dream. A big mess of images and words reading like acid jazz.Â I stepped away from it and then analyzed it as you would a dream, tried to decipher it and find the meaning.
It was 2003, just after we invaded Iraq”“ I was feeling impotent in my personal life and felt that I didn’t have anything left to give to what I saw politically happening in my country. My mess of a play seemed to draw from my frightened and flaccid spirit.
I was reading a book of poetry at the time called Poems to Live By in Uncertain Times ““ a collection of poetry by poets that included Ginsberg and Bertolt Brecht. Â A poem by Yehuda Amichai called “My Child Blossoms Sadly” caught my attention, and I saw it as the thesis for my play.Â My interpretation of the poem was not a literal interpretation but rather my perspective on the world, based on my late-night, far-out solutions for the world’s problems – saving the planet, ending war, ending the abuse of children, the abuse of women, of each other.
MY CHILD BLOSSOMS SADLY
By Yehuda Amichai
My child blossoms sadly.
He blossoms in spring without me,
he ripens in the sadness of my not being there.
I saw a cat playing with her kittens.
I shall not teach my son war,
I shall not teach him at all. I shall not be.
He puts sand in a small bucket.
He makes a sand cake.
I put sand in my body.
The cake crumbles. My body.
The only solution seemed to be ending mankind entirely. I imagined all women killing themselves in a mass sacrifice, allowing something new to begin. I already had four funerals — following four female suicides — in my play. Â I went through the draft again, stripping away the parts that did not fit my thesis. I then had a kind of sci-fi story that was still not satisfying to me.
I set it down for over a year. Long enough for me to forget. Picked it up again and this time focused on the personal journey of the main character, Alice — insignificant, ordinary, stuck in a loveless job and marriage. Decisions are painful for Alice to make. She wants the world to make decisions for her. She daydreams of being self-expressed, but in her actual life she is complacent and unable to take risks.
I think the story is about her own life and the outside world, desperately needing Alice’s attention, needing her to authentically express herself. The more she suppresses her spirit’s longing, the more her imagination and un-tethered soul take over — like the writer who is safe in the containment of her office, diving into her imaginary worlds, disappearing and then returning to a small room, alone and only effective on paper.
There is humor and hope in my play, but this time I did not allow myself a fairy tale ending. Instead I wanted to honor the fears and frailties that humans sometimes contain, to accept and acknowledge our self-imposed prisons and our inability to take the steps we long to take. I hope that Have You Seen Alice? is as engaging and satisfying an experience for the audience as it has been for me to create.
Have You Seen Alice? by Jacqueline Wright. Presented by Theatre of NOTE. Opens Nov. 4. Â Plays Fri.-Sat. 8 pm.; Sun. 7 pm. Â Through Dec. 17. Tickets: $22. Theatre of Note, 1517 N. Cahuenga, Hollywood. 323-856-8611. www.theartreofnote.com.
***All Have You Seen Alice? production photos by Darrett Sanders
Jacqueline Wright is a Los Angeles-based writer/performer and graduate of CalArts. Â She has received numerous awards and nominations including an LA Weekly Performance Award, numerous LA Weekly acting nominations, and writing nominations for Best Adaptation & Comedy Playwriting and an Ovation nomination for her collaborative work with the Ghost Road.Â Wright is a 2005 Jerome Fellowship alternate and a member of the Dog Ear writer’s collective (www.dogear.org).