A quasi-legal street performance of Brillig, a snippet of Nerve’s Alice, erupted in downtown Ypsilanti last Friday, a couple blocks from that oh-so-phallic Water Tower, just down the way from the Heritage Festival and in front of a church where (allegedly) a wedding rehearsal took place. The juxtaposition added context. Call it sudden theatre, guerrilla spectacle, maybe aesthetic shenanigans, the proceedings had an overall religious feel (maybe just “relig-ish?”) blended with a raucous rule-bending of theatrical expectations. These performers eschewed the mystic darkness of a black box stage and brought their Wonderland to city streets.
Director-provacateur Kathe Koja arrived first, parading with her riddle stick, enticing passersby. Soon the Carpenter ushered in a noisy procession of the March Hare, the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter. As cars drove past, blaring their horns in solidarity, the Carpenter then intoned a solemn poem about (I think) the origins of Wonderland that felt like genuine Lewis Carroll, though I fought my pedant’s urge to consult the text. Apocryphal or echte, the rhyme certainly conjured that wacky mood found beyond the Looking Glass. After being politely baptized with Mad Hatter’s tea, audience members were issued random instruments and deputized as an impromptu marching orchestra. Together we serenaded Ypsilanti, up and down several blocks, before coming to rest at the feet of a Madonna in a park. All too soon, the service was over and the performers whisked away, leaving a whimsical blessing.
Let me share the benediction: Wonderland is nearer than you think. In fact, tickets are now on sale for the full performance October 2014.