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 Mom off before she can finish her sentence. Her phone rings again; caller ID flashes, “Mom.” Alice is about to cut her off again when a man’s voice on her mother’s phone startles her. It’s a paramedic who tells her Mom is in the ambulance on oxygen. They’re taking her to The Fair.
Scene 2 At Alice’s Desk
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. She has a severe headache.
Scene 3 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 4 At Alice’s Desk
Alice is exhausted. Her headache worsens. She feels unwell. She’s called 59 variants of Fair Hospital and is still unable to find Mom. She despairs that she’ll be able to find her in time.
Scene 5 Down the Rabbit Hole – Rabbit Hole
Alice wanders the streets, cell phone in hand. She looks at Google maps, checks street signs and peers at street numbers, trying to find Fair Hospital, but the street numbers simply don’t make sense. She sees Mr. White Rabbit running by 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 shoves her down a manhole and takes her to Mrs. White Rabbit to help her deliver her litter. Alice delivers 12 healthy baby bunnies.
Scene 6 At Alice’s Desk
Alice is still on the phone trying to find her mother. She thinks of the families who have lost loved ones in the pandemic and how she comforts her patients who would otherwise face death alone. She wonders if a nurse, like her, is comforting her mother.
Scene 7 Down the Rabbit Hole – Fairground
Alice is going around and around on a carousel in a carnival to the sound of phones ringing, computers clacking, static, processed voices saying, “No ma’am, she’s not here.” She sees Mr. White Rabbit and follows him. He stops at a booth. She sees herself as a child standing 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. She screams again, “I hate you!”
Scene 8 At Alice’s Desk/At the Hospital
Alice finally hits jackpot; she finds the hospital where her mother is. She tells the nurse that she is coming to see Mom to tell her she’s sorry. The nurse says no one is allowed to visit; she will tell Mom that Alice is sorry.
Scene 9 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 10 At Alice’s Home
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, who works in a grocery store, did not have personal protective equipment. She tells herself she should have given Mom PPE.
Scene 11 At The Fair
Mr. White Rabbit is a carnival barker at The Fair. He invites Alice to enter his Zoom 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 of Hearts 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 had resented Mom bitterly for deserting Dad, leaving him a broken man, leaving him to die alone on the streets. She realizes she was wrong about Mom, that she had wasted years hating her and blaming her for taking Dad 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 Dad’s. Alice asks which one is hers. Mom replies that it must be the one burning strong. Alice is not so sure. She starts to apologize to Mom who shushes her. Alice curls up, her head on Mom’s lap. Mom sings her the lullaby as Alice says goodnight.
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