Alice in the Pandemic, A Digital Opera in One Act

Scene 1  In Alice’s Apartment

Alice, an ER nurse, arrives home.  Her phone rings.  It’s her mother, Mrs. Lee.  Alice cuts her off. Alice’s phone rings again; caller ID flashes, “Mom.”  Alice is about to cut her off again when a man’s voice startles her.  It’s a paramedic; Mom is in the ambulance on oxygen.  They’re taking her to The Fair.  Alice googles Fair Hospital.  Hundreds of variants of Fair Hospital pop onto her screen.  She begins calling each one to try to find her mother.

Scene 2  Down the Rabbit Hole – Subway

Alice is on the subway.  Mr. White Rabbit runs by.  Alice asks where he’s going.  “To The Fair,” he replies.  He’s in a hurry; his wife is about to have a litter of bunnies.  Alice thinks he’s going to Fair Hospital. He leaps off the subway. Alice follows him.

Scene 3  At Alice’s Desk

Alice is exhausted.  Her head aches.  She feels unwell.  She’s called 59 variants of Fair Hospital and is unable to find her mother.

Scene 4  Down the Rabbit Hole – Rabbit Hole

Alice wanders the streets checking Google maps, street signs and street numbers, trying to find Fair Hospital. But the street numbers simply don’t make sense.  She sees Mr. White Rabbit and stops him to ask for directions.  He’s in a hurry.  His wife is about to have a litter of bunnies.  When he finds out she’s a nurse, he pulls her into an ATM and takes her to Mrs. White Rabbit. Alice delivers 12 healthy baby bunnies.

Scene 5  At Alice’s Desk

Alice is still on the phone trying to find her mother.  She hears the voice of her colleagues at the hospital as they struggle to cope with dead and dying Covid-19 patients.

Scene 6  Down the Rabbit Hole –  Fairgrounds

Alice is going around and around on a carousel. She sees Mr. White Rabbit and follows him to a “Ball Toss” game booth.  She sees herself as a child in a corner of the booth.  Her grandmother is next to her. The fairgoers are pelting Child Alice with balls.  Grandmother begs Child Alice to apologize for screaming “I hate you” at her mother. Alice refuses.

Scene 7  At Alice’s Desk

Alice despairs that she’ll be able to find her mother in time to.  She thinks of the many deaths she has witnessed of those who have died without family or friends.

Scene 8  At Mrs. Lee’s Hospital Bed

Mrs. Lee is feverish. She has trouble breathing.  She sings the lullaby she sang to Alice when Alice was a child.

Scene 9  At Alice’s Desk

Alice is wracked by guilt. Her head hurts and she can’t catch her breath.  She thinks it’s a panic attack.  She agonizes over the fact that her mother, a grocery store worker, did not have personal protective equipment.

Scene 10  At The Fair

Mr. White Rabbit is a carnival barker at The Fair.  He invites Alice to enter his tent to fight the Virus.  She can leave once she finds Mom.  Alice confronts the incarnations of her mother that live in her imagination – an Ice Creature, a Witch, and the Queen of Hearts.  The Queen tells her the truth about her father: He was an addict; she left him the day she found Alice playing with his pills.

Alice is heartbroken. She realizes she was wrong about her mother, that she had wasted years hating her and blaming her for taking her father away.

Mr. White Rabbit opens a door to a vast cavern lit by candles.  He explains that each candle is a life in our world.  Alice finds Mom kneeling before three candles – a candle that has burned out, one that is flickering and one that is burning strong. Mom explains that the burned-out candle is her father’s.  Alice asks which one’s hers.  Mom thinks it’s the one burning strong.  Alice isn’t so sure.  She starts to apologize to Mom who shushes her.  Alice curls up, her head on Mom’s lap as her mother sings the lullaby.