Wonderland, a little girl and a wish!
This summer, the Make a Wish Foundation received an unusual request from Robin, a ten year old girl with Craniopharyngioma, a life threatening benign tumor that develops near the pituitary gland in the brain.
She wanted to sail to Wonderland, meet the Red Queen and the White Queen, play croquet, solve riddles, parkour (overcome obstacles through the most direct path) and sleep in the woods. She wanted to live the adventure of Alice in Wonderland. How could the Foundation possibly grant this request?
Coincidentally and serendipitously theatre simple, a regular contributor to and participant in 4Culture’s Site-Specific performance program, was opening its latest outdoor, free production of Wonderland: Alice Adventures in Ballard. The Seattle Times wrote an article about it, which someone at the Foundation read. Foundation representatives attended the next performance of Wonderland in Bellevue Botanical Garden, and after the show, approached theatre simple co-founder Llysa Holland about the child’s request. Could theatre simple make this fantasy come true? Lysa decided that they could and would.
Llysa and the Make a Wish staff recruited partners for this exquisite adventure. Nordstom, the Ruins, the Space Needle, the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, a sailing company and a flying company all entered into the spirit in granting this wish.
On September 10th, the White Rabbit surprised Robin at her home in South Seattle to be her attentive guide on this journey. They found an invitation to play croquet with the Queen and left in a limo to get proper dress for the occasion, because Robin had “nothing to wear.”
The Rabbit accompanied Robin to Nordstorm, and shopped for a proper party dress, specifically designed by the Nordstrom design team. They then went to the Space Needle and found clues that led her “up the Rabbit Hole” onto the observation deck, from which Robin looked through a telescope in search of clues posted below that led her on her next adventure. Robin went to the Ruins in lower Queen Anne and saw the tea party scene with Mad Hatter, March Hare, Teapot and Dormouse and got to be part of a “proper” tea party.
After the tea party, Robin arrived at Pier 66 to meet Captain Bruce Cunningham, who sailed the family and a few characters on a 42′ catamaran to Bainbridge Island, also known in this story as Wonderland. That evening Robin dined with the Duchess in a castle, where she spent the night.
The next morning Robin and her family had breakfast with Alice, the White Rabbit, Frog Footman and King and Queen. She saw an extraordinary croquet game played by young gymnast hedgehogs, then a remarkable croquet game with brooms as mallets and garden arbors as wickets. Following the croquet game, Robin met the Cheshire Cat, White Queen and many others. Then she encountered the Tweedles, completed the Parkour challenge and quiz to become queen and receive her crown. She celebrated with all the characters at a grand picnic. After her adventure in Wonderland, Robin and her family flew from Port Madison on Bainbridge in a seaplane back to Seattle. All of the characters gathered in front of the castle and waved as she passed overhead.
In the next couple of days, Llysa Holland and Andrew Litsky received a note from Robin’s mother:
“Robin laughed and smiled so much in Wonderland and told me many times how happy she was, and how magical the experience was. She cried when she saw everyone waving from Wonderland, missing them already. As we landed on Lake Union in the seaplane, Robin said, ‘I never thought I would have a flawless day in my life. This day is flawless, so far!’”
This story touched me so much I just had to share it. Llysa, Andrew, the fifteen actors who portrayed the Alice ensemble, the businesses that all jumped into the task at hand were extraordinarily generous with their talent and imagination. Llysa Holland is a genius. It makes me proud to be a part of this creative community.
Photos: theater simple making a wish come true © 2011
(Thanks to Robin’s family for sharing their pictures!)