Alice's adventures on stage

Local playwright puts beloved childhood characters in new context

The colorful characters and worlds of Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan" have captivated children and adults alike for more than a century. In "Every Day Alice," a new play by Mountain View resident Anne Kobori, the titular Alice and Peter come together on stage.

"I've always been intrigued by both 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Peter Pan' ... children's books and plays have a lot of deeper meaning and psychological implications," Kobori said. "I wanted to delve deeper into that in a modern setting."

Her play, like the classics by which it's inspired, deals with themes of growing up, identity and the line between imagination and delusion.

The characters of Alice and Peter, though both born from Victorian/Edwardian English fantasies, have different personality types, philosophies and goals, Kobori said. Carroll's Alice is the brave, sensible little girl who's filled with curiosity but tries to impose reason and logic on a world gone mad. Barrie's Peter is the free-spirited ambassador of Neverland who wants nothing to do with the "real" world and chafes against authority figures. She is faced with her body rapidly growing and changing while he fights hard to avoid having ever to grow up.

Kobori thought about these similarities and differences as she worked on the piece and considered how the two might relate in a romantic relationship. In "Every Day Alice," Alice is a writer whose overactive imagination has landed her in a psychiatric hospital. Her boyfriend, Peter, struggles with the transition to adulthood and longs for a carefree, adventuresome existence. The characters also consider the connections between mental health and self expression.

"Ultimately I realized that it wasn't going to work out for them as this fictional couple," she said. "The play ends up going in a different direction in the end."

Though it deals with serious issues, Kobori said there are humorous moments as well, with nods to the source material. Hattie, for example, is a retired actress whom Alice meets in the hospital. Based on the Mad Hatter, she helps throw a memorable tea party.

"Every Day Alice" will be presented as a free staged reading with a six-person cast on Monday, Aug. 6, as part of Dragon Productions Theatre Company's Monday Night Play Space series, which gives local artists the chance to share new works with the public. Kobori, who will read the part of Alice, first started writing it as a theater major at Santa Clara University. She went on to found the San Francisco-based Utopia Theatre Project, which will likely host a full production of "Alice" next year.

Kobori is cognizant of the risk involved with reinterpreting such beloved characters.

"Everyone has expectations of what they would be like. I'm hoping to answer that by the fact that they're not replicas of the original story characters; they have their own lives and their own contexts," she said.

One of the reasons the works have remained meaningful to her and countless others across the world for so long is that the themes and questions are still relatable, especially to those with a passion for creative pursuits. "Can we move through the world with a child's imagination," she asked, "or is that something you have to give up to succeed in the adult world?"

What: "Every Day Alice."

Where: Dragon Theatre, 2120 Broadway St., Redwood City.

When: Monday, Aug. 6, at 7:30 p.m.

Cost: Free.

Info: Go to Dragon Productions Theatre Company.

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