Playwright Kara Lee Corthron has listened to Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 hit song “White Rabbit” more than 100 times. “It’s kind of embarrassing,” she admits. One reason for her obsession: the image-filled, Alice in Wonderland–inspired song is a central thread in her newest play, AliceGraceAnon. Songwriter and Jefferson Airplane lead singer Grace Slick shares stage time in Corthron’s piece with Lewis Carroll’s Alice and the anonymous narrator of the 1971 novel Go Ask Alice. That book’s title was based on Slick’s song and dealt with drug addiction.
“I wanted to see what would happen if the three characters could go about their lives until they got to a point where they needed each other,” Corthron says of the separate-then-converging narratives. “I grew up obsessed with Alice and with the psychedelic ’60s. I loved Woodstock, and I would listen to the music from that concert all the time,” she recalls.
But it wasn’t until the New York City–based New Georges commissioned Corthron to write an “unproduceable” play for its Germ Project—a series of four plays that are large in size and scope—that she felt she could finally explore that “fantastical” idea. The production also contains pre-performance installations, including a “Mad Tea Party Room,” a “Go Ask Alice Room” and “instruments that people can pick up and play, and suggest lyrics for Grace.” There will also be a live band onstage playing Jefferson Airplane tunes.
AliceGraceAnon is the first Germ play on the New Georges schedule, and will run until Nov. 9 at the Irondale Center, under Kara-Lynn Vaeni’s direction. And while there won’t be any drugs, pills or magical mushrooms, Corthron promises that “there will be lots of beer!”