MANALAPAN – A series of events ranging from a tea and a costume parade to a one-person show portraying author Lewis Carroll by noted actor/speaker Andrew Sellon will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Carroll’s most famous book, Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland.
“This is one of the most fascinating and exciting of the exhibits we have had recently,” said Renee Swartz, chairperson of the Monmouth County Library Commission, “I have advocated for a broad varieties of programs to celebrate the life of this well known and beloved author and the fantasies he created for millions of children over his life time.”
Carroll, whose real name was Lewis Dodgson, was born in Cheshire, England in 1832 and was a deacon, photographer and mathematician in addition to being a writer. Some biographies indicate he had a lifelong stutter, but was able to speak flawlessly when addressing children, a possible explanation raised by some Carroll students as the reason why he had a penchant from his younger days of creating and telling stories to children. It was after one of the children, Alice Liddell, one of three daughters of his friends, asked him to write down his wonderful stories for her that Alice, the book, came into being.
The international Lewis Carroll Society of North America (LCSNA), a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering study of the life and works of Carroll, has announced there are programs and conferences around the world, from Russia and Australia to Europe, England and North America celebrating Carroll’s contributions to literature, Freeholder Lillian Burry, liaison to the library, said. “And Monmouth County is in the forefront of all of these celebrations. I’m delighted that our library can bring Lewis Carroll to the door steps of everyone in Monmouth County at a time when people all over the world are celebrating this anniversary.”
The series of events begins next month but the variety of activities and events celebrating the anniversary culminates on Sunday, Oct. 25 at 2 p.m. when The Eagle Theater will present Alice: An Adventure in Wonderland on stage at the Library Headquarters, 125 Symmes Ave. Written by award-winning author Charles Way, this whimsically madcap fantasy is designed for family enjoyment and follows Alice on her adventure through wonderland, meeting white rabbits, mad hatters, homicidal queens and a misguided jabberwocky! The play features eight actors, runs approximately an hour long, and is one of the first touring shows for this highly acclaimed year-round professional Equity Theater. As with all events in the Monmouth County library, there is no admission charge for the play. “And to further enhance the experience for all our visitors,” Burry added,” there will be a meet and greet with the actors after the show, and of course, a tea, a craft, and an Alice-themed costume parade.”
The first in a series of events and activities over the next couple of months can be seen in the lobby showcases at the Eastern Branch, Route 35, Shrewsbury, Mrs. Burry said, where Alice’s dress, some tea sets, a deck of cards, Cheshire cats and other figurines inspired by the book will be on display.
The first program celebrating the anniversary will be Saturday, Sept. 19, when Alice in Wonderland: Down Rabbit Hole, will be presented at 2 p.m. at the Headquarters library, 120 Symmes Avenue. Manalapan. The program includes an introduction by author Charles Nurnberg, who, wrote the picture-book retelling of the beginning of Alice’s journey, with simplified texts that retain the astonishing adventures and wide-eyed amazement of the original book.
“This is a great opportunity for parents to introduce their young children to the classic Carroll characters,” said Swartz, “they can meet everyone from Alice and the White Rabbit to the Blue Caterpillar, Bill the Lizard and so much more in special readings by actors Anna Paone and Rory Griffith. There will time for a Q&A after the reading, an opportunity to have a book signing by the author and even some special Alice games.”
The book being read Sept. 19 is the only picture book acquired by Macmillian UK, the publisher of the original Alice books.
“At a time when children are growing up so fast and there is so much change and disarray around the world,” Burry said, “it is wonderful to give them the opportunity to bask in some imagination and plain fun.”
On Sunday, Sept. 27, also at 2 p.m., the Eastern Branch library will feature a Tea and the Mad Hatter Lecture presented by tea and food historian Judith Krall-Russo. The talk will include a history of tea gatherings, the history of the beverage itself, and some of Carroll’s social comments on the Victorian Age. There will also be a discussion on proper tea etiquette and a Mad Hatter contest with prizes for the best hat.
On Wednesday, Oct. 7m at 4 P.M. the Colts Neck Branch of the county library will feature a ballet presented by the Performing Arts Ensemble of Red Bank. On Thursday, Oct. 14, from 4:15 to 5:00p.m., there will be stories and a craft for children in kindergarten and older while they explore Humpty-Dumpty and what happened after he fell, along with an Alice through the looking Glass craft.
Sellon’s program is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 24 at 2 p.m. on stage at the Headquarters branch. Sellon, a four-time president of the Lewis Carroll Society, has organized conferences and is currently writing a one-man show on Carroll. He is a professional actor and the program planned for Monmouth County will highlight the impact of Carroll’s contributions to society and culture around the world. The Oct. 24 program is geared towards spectators 16 years of age and older.
The Howell branch of the County Library system will feature an Alice Lego Craft on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at 4:15 when youngsters can read and discuss Alice’s adventures while making an Alice Lego craft.
“Even with all of that, there is still so much on the horizon,” Swartz said, noting that many more of the county library branches are also scheduling dates for special events, including a tea party, croquet game, a class on creating no bake tea cup treats, even a Tweedle Dee/Tweedle Dum photo station which will be set up in Hazlet, a tea in Oceanport, and an Alice book display and readings by the Dead Poets Society in Atlantic Highlands. The Marlboro branch will feature a book display as well as showcasing elements of chess, cats, croquet, tea, hats and even Alice.