The Play Has Moved from a Little Theater in Astoria to BAM in Record Time.
Alice comes to BAM…
Last year, Ophelia Theatre Company produced Your Alice, a new play by Billie Aken-Tyers, in a space opposite a gym in Astoria. Last week they opened it up at BAM. This staggering feat is a testament to the sheer willpower of this group of individuals, and the gusto and moxy of the theater they have created. Further to that, after their run in Brooklyn, the cast and crew will see themselves headed to Scotland to perform the show for the culturally ravenous crowds of the Edinburgh Fringe. To see a play do one of these things is incredible, to do both smacks of divine intervention. So what's the hype about?
Writer/Director Aken-Tyers' work sees the story of Alice in Wonderland unfold alongside the real life misadventures of Alice Liddell and Charles Dodgson (Alias Lewis Carroll). As these two spend a leisurely afternoon in a boat on a river, Dodgson creates the world of Wonderland for the amusement of the eleven-year-old girl, and watches in marvel as she frolics in its catacombs. However, his characters turn to him and warn him that he may be watching a little too closely. His affection appears to be far more than friendly, and his obsession with Alice grows ever more worrisome (both to him, his characters, and the audience) over the course of the play.
Photos by Danny Bristoll
Therein lie the makings of an Alice for the #MeToo era. Dodgson wrestles with his unnatural feelings for the young girl, even as she seems to intimate that she is very much interested in him. As these uncomfortable scenes play out, the world of Wonderland works its charms. The cast sings, dances, leaps, cajoles, and generally performs with enough energy to keep the lights on for years. The physical theater of these scenes is whimsical, imaginative, and visually astounding, especially considering the shoe-string budget the show was conceived on. Alice nearly drowns in a pool of her own tears, a Caucus-Race occurs to much delight, and the Cheshire Cat (Tamara Sevunts) leads a two-person band (herself on piano and Megan Magee on clarinet) that sets the stage positively alight with the music of Stephen Murphy. It's all quite marvelously realized.
The interaction between the real and surreal here is curious. At times, we are simply watching the world of Wonderland as we know it. At times it is a symptom or expression of Charles' unnerving desires. At times it is a counterpoint to his feelings. At times it is an interpretation of Alice's inner life. Whilst fascinating, this approach can be a little muddling at times, particularly when combined with the upside-down logic already endemic to the worlds of Lewis Carroll.
When it comes to the play's most controversial point is when things get curiouser and curiouser, however. Luke Antony Neville and Eliza Shea are both stellar in their parts as Dodgson and Liddell. Neville seems brilliantly uncomfortable with his every utterance, in sharp contrast to Shea's indomitable incandescence. Her Alice burns through the play, almost to the point that you could believe Dodgson was her victim. However we well know given the dynamic of the relationship that if anyone is the victim, it's Alice.
Photos by Danny Bristoll
The relationship between these two actors is layer upon layer of uneasy fascination. The play, drawing from passages of Dodgson's private documents, expresses inner thoughts that make audience members squirm in their seats…and yet the play seems to have you rooting for them. It resolves to leave you feeling unresolved. Carroll is neither outright condemned for his feelings nor praised for his timeless creations. Liddell is never definitively his pedophilic toy, nor his beloved muse. Nevertheless the feeling of a violation persists throughout the play, making it a meaty discussion piece that will never be wholly summed up in a single review. The play doesn't offer you answers, instead it begs to be talked about.
So what is Your Alice? What can best be said to sum up the experience? A miraculous melding of timely commentary and meticulous world-building? A brilliant cast lending fathoms of depth to an already probing text? A feast for the senses that defies your expectations of what can be realized on a stage? A good looking piece of theater that will also make you deeply uncomfortable for all the right reasons? The answer is buried somewhere amongst all of the above. Give Your Alice a look. You will not want to be late for this very important date.
Thomas Burns Scully is a Popdust contributor, and also an award-winning actor, playwright, and musician. In his spare time he writes and designs escape rooms. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.
Villains always have the best outfits.
From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.
Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com
But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.
Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.
Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.
Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com
Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.
As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.
History of Nazi Chic
For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.
The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.
Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it
Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.
The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com
Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.
Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.
Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com
Nazi Chic in Asia
Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.
A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.
In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.
OF COURSE. i.imgur.com
That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.
In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.
So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?
The answer is not so black and white.
On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.
But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.
Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.
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Summer Walker returns and is no longer playing games.
Summer Walker loves creating music but despises the music industry.
She regularly considers retirement and ended her 2019 tour early because of social anxiety. "I hope that people understand and respect that at the end of the day I'm a person, I have feelings, I get tired, I get sad," she said in a video post. "I don't want to lose myself for someone else." She was relentlessly vilified for her decision. Fans cited stiff meet-and-greets and chalked up Walker's cancellations to a sense of entitlement.
Then she was presented with the "Best New Artist" award at the 2019 Soul Train Awards, and her hurried acceptance speech was dissected by tasteless memes all across the country. Walker's candid cries for understanding remained completely ignored by years end. The truth of the matter is that Walker suffers from anxiety and stage fright that is all but totally crippling. So she did what any misunderstood artist does, she disappeared and stopped saying anything at all.