May 18, 2007
“'Get to your places!' shouted the Queen in a voice of thunder, and people began running about in all directions, tumbling up against each other; however, they got settled down in a minute or two, and the game began.”
- excerpt from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
John Tenniel illustration, coloured by Fritz Kredel.
By Darla Read
The game is croquet, where the mallets are live flamingos, the balls are live hedgehogs, and real soldiers double themselves up and stand on their hands and feet to make the arches.
Taken straight from the pages of the familiar childhood story Alice in Wonderland, it is a scene that will play out in the Bowl at the U of S on the afternoon of May 29. The only difference is the mallets, balls, and arches won't be alive.
The game will take place during the 2007 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, which the U of S is hosting this year. Around 6,000 delegates are expected to attend over the course of the nine-day annual event. Paul Bidwell, an English professor, is in charge of planning cultural events for Congress, and he thought the croquet game from Alice in Wonderland would be a lot of fun.
“I've always dreamed of having it in the Bowl,” he says. “I thought the English (department) could take on Admin.”
The croquet game will feature celebrities dressed up in character. The King and Queen of Hearts will be there, as well as Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, Alice, and the Executioner. Bidwell points out you “have to have the Executioner because the Queen goes around shouting 'off with his head!'”
Bidwell's lips are sealed on who most of the characters will be, but reveals that Professor Hans Michelmann, the academic convener of Congress, will be Tweedle Dum, and Bidwell himself will be Tweedle Dee. Michael Atkinson, U of S provost and vice president academic, will be the red Queen. The Executioner will remain a mystery until the day of the croquet match, says Bidwell, because “it's always kept a secret.” However, he will say that she will have an axe, and she will be chopping off heads at the Queen's command.
Anyone passing through the Bowl is welcome to participate but you have to wear a costume – playing card sandwich boards will be provided. The balls will have hedgehogs painted on them, and the mallets will be the flamingos that might appear on a person's lawn on birthdays. A photographer will be on hand to take pictures that can be purchased afterward.
The game is a benefit for READ Saskatoon, a non-profit organization that works on behalf of adult literacy. Bidwell says since Alice in Wonderland is a book, it would be good to collect money for such an organization. Being an English professor, though, the book is close to his heart.
“Nobody should die without reading Alice in Wonderland. It's what keeps you sane.”
Darla Read is a Saskatoon freelance writer