Tumbling Into Wonderland
I hear the music first, a dreamy jazz standard floating through the dusk air that tugs my attention from my book. A woman wearing a mouse head and a tutu pirouettes up to me and curtsies. I attempt a bemused smile, while my thoughts spin out of control.
What the **** is going on?!
Giant golden eggs trundle around the field in front of me. Dancers balance towering pink cakes on their heads. A rabbit-eared man approaches an altar in some kind of bizarre wedding ceremony.
In fact, I’m the only normal looking human being in sight. I look down at my hands to make sure I’m not dreaming then back up as some gents pedal by on over-sized penny-farthing bikes.
I must have taken a misstep on my late-April evening walk and fallen into Wonderland. Or maybe my lunch contained mushrooms with a little extra magic? Tugging self-consciously on my plainclothes, I continue on my way past the live band.
On my return journey, the scene has transformed, and the whole group now circles a beribboned maypole in the dark.
*Lightbulb dings* – this must be a dress rehearsal for a May Day performance! I resist the urge to down a DRINK ME potion and join in.
Some internet research confirms my theory – the performing arts group Lucia Neare’s Theatrical Wonders was putting on a May Day spectacle that weekend, complete with a parade and a “cake library” stocked by guests. Knowing the truth does little to lessen how surreal the experience was.
Exposed in the Heron Rookery!
Fast forward several months to another night-time walk, this one with my date in tow. We enter a large forest clearing known as the Heron Rookery, the perfect spot for a romantic rendezvous under the stars.
We expect to find solitude at 2am, but instead large and mysterious shapes swim out of the dark. “Wait,” I whisper, spotting the silhouette of a figure sitting in a chair. “There’s someone here.”
A flashlight clicks on, illuminating our guilty expressions.
“H… hello,” I say.
During the following incredibly awkward exchange, we learn that the mysterious stranger is a security guard watching over expensive stage equipment for an outdoor performance.
Lucia Neare strikes again! *Shakes fist*
Lucia Neare’s Lullaby
Curiosity peaked, I decide to experience the “Lullaby for Rookery” performance as an intentional audience member. At sunset that Thursday, we join a procession along the Redmond bike trails, following a clarinetist and some gents carrying giant globe lanterns.
Rollerbladers in tuxedos wheel by with inclines of their top-hat-helmets and murmurs of “Happy swan moon.” Swan-shaped boats and little beds float in the river beneath fairy lights and balloons. It’s as though someone superimposed a fantasy realm over our plain old town.
Our guides shepherd us into a park where performers whirl in a pillow-fight-dance around a giant bed. Then, we pick up our own little globe lanterns and head into the rookery. The space is transformed with sparkling blue lights and rings of beds and blankets for the audience to curl up on.
Anthropomorphic clocks and owls and cats, all wearing white, move in careful step to the live classical music. Some horse-headed people wheel in baby buggies full of white rose petals that they scoop up in handfuls and shower over our heads. Without plot or words to drive it, the performance crawls along in a sleepwalk.
The little boy in front of us turns to his parents. “I think it’s my bedtime,” he suggests hopefully, boredom etched in the slump of his shoulders. We nod in agreement. The lullaby is doing its job all too well.
After the swan sings an opera piece, a stag approaches and leads her in a waltz. They invite the audience to stand up and join, and we take the opportunity to waltz our way out of the rookery, grateful for a little dose of the surreal in our daily lives.
- Lucia Neare’s Theatrical Wonders
Public performances in Seattle and Redmond