Cirque Macau – Alice in the Cosmos


This is very ironic. Here’s a news release about the overall concept of the new Cirque Macau show at the Sands Venetian that I’m working on (I knew about it, but won’t release any info on the show until it’s released to the media).

The ironic part is that one of the projects I had to cancel when I joined Cirque Du Soleil was writing my new musical version of Alice in Wonderland. It was scheduled for performance in April of 2008. Mmmm…..coincidental don’t you think?

Stéphane Baillargeon
Édition du mardi 19 février 2008

Article on Cirque Macau I released in French by at

You can translate the original article from French to English at:

Partial English Translation:

The director Gilles Maheu prepares an original production described in the documents of the company like “Alice with the country of the wonders, but in cosmos”. The spectacle of Venetian Hotel, inaugurated next October, will use seven lifting performances, including three calling upon about fifteen dancers. Gilles Maheu, well-known for his work of dance-theatre within the late troop Carbon-14, called upon Martino Müller, the choreographer who worked already with him on the musical Our-injury of Paris.

The CDS quickly hopes to propose “at least five” spectacles with Macao, according to an internal source. In fact, the company wishes to reproduce there with identical the model of development of Las Vegas where it is about to offer its sixth production and aims programming at ten spectacles from here 2015.

– With reading tomorrow: Will the CDS settle in London and New York?

Excerpt in French:

Le metteur en scène Gilles Maheu prépare une production originale décrite dans les documents de la compagnie comme «Alice au pays des merveilles, mais dans le cosmos». Le spectacle du Venetian Hotel, inauguré en octobre prochain, utilisera sept performances acrobatiques, dont trois faisant appel à une quinzaine de danseurs. Gilles Maheu, bien connu pour son travail de danse-théâtre au sein de la défunte troupe Carbone 14, a fait appel à Martino Müller, le chorégraphe qui travaillait déjà avec lui sur la comédie musicale Notre-Dame de Paris.

Le CDS espère rapidement proposer «au moins cinq» spectacles à Macao, selon une source interne. En fait, la compagnie souhaite y reproduire à l’identique le modèle de développement de Las Vegas où elle est sur le point d’offrir sa sixième production et vise une programmation à dix spectacles d’ici 2015.

– À lire demain: Le CDS s’installera-t-il à Londres et à New York?

Script Layout Hints


In order to gauge more or less how long a film a script will make (very useful for producers), there are certain standards in formatting. Avoid these at your own risk. Americans especially are very rigid about this. These standards allow us to measure a script’s length by saying that: “a page of script equals roughly a minute of screen time”. This is a very rough guide (often action films scripts are short but take longer on screen than a dialogue based script) and not to be completely trusted.

You should use Courier (or New Courier) Size 12. This is a fixed-width font, which many believe makes it easier to read. You’ll be surprised how picky some readers are about this.

Should fall between 90 to 120 pages. Anything longer and your chances of being read begin to diminish. Dumb huh?

Avoid numbering scenes unless it is a shooting script which will only be seen by yourself or when actually shootingthe film. Script readers don’t like them.

A script layout should look something like this. Some will demand exact measured layouts but few are very sticky about exact distances from margins etc. (Note that it is difficult to display exact layouts on web browsers – this is only a rough guide.)
Layout Example


This one is a toughie. It’s very hard to teach dialogue. One has to develop an ear for the way people really speak and not how we think they speak. Listen to people from various backgrounds and in various situations talk as often as you can. You’ll probably notice that people are not very eloquent in general. They don’t express themselves very well vocally and a great deal of what is NOT said is just as important (often more so) than what is said. Bring these thoughts to your scriptwriting process. And again read lots of scripts and watch many films to become more sensitive to dialogue.

An important thing to remember is that scripts are the basis of the visual medium of film. An old adage is: never say what you can show instead. In other words if a character is angry don’t have her say “I’m angry!”, show it to us. E.g. have her smash a window with a chair instead.

There is almost always a central character in a Hollywood movie. That is because Hollywood films work on the basis of the audience being able to identify with a character and his or her experiences. More than one central character tends to confuse the viewers (at least according to many studio execs).

Characters are expected to be three dimensional and rounded. By that it is meant that we should get a sense of their history and how it has affected them as well as understanding why they do what they do (usually called Motivation). (E.g. X avoids men because of a previous heartbreaking episode). This is based on the idea that we do things for knowable reasons. Modern psychology came up with this somewhat naïve notion. However we rarely actually have access to the full reasons why we, others (or ourselves) do what we do. Nevertheless Hollywood believes otherwise.

This convention often leads to some awfully contrived scenes in which characters reveal really corny back-stories and traumatic past events. This is also called “exposition” and is very difficult to write without being obvious or corny. Exposition should happen organically and without the audience realising it. Some filmmakers such as David Cronenberg don’t allow us to get close to their characters and we rarely know why they do things except for the obvious. Unlike in most Hollywood films we are not participants in Cronenberg’s films – but voyeurs watching the action from the outside.

Nevertheless it often helps to create back-stories for your characters. These are basically histories for your characters – their life experiences, social and economic background etc. This doesn’t have to all be obviously present in the script but helps to craft more real characters.

Part of having a three dimensional character is that we see him or her develop across the course of the script. They should change in front of our very eyes. Again remember these are all conventions for a conventional style of film.

Camera Directions
It’s usually not appreciated that you include camera movements in your scripts. There are ways of getting around this in sticky situations. Sometimes it can’t be avoided. Tarantino’s scripts on the other hand are full of camera directions. If the script is going to be pitched to outside producers and script-reader

Formatting Scripts

final-draft.jpgHow long should a script be?

How important is the format of my script? And if it’s SO important, how do I go about doing it properly?

While this is the subject of much debate – generally along the lines of individuality versus making life easy for a reader – it seems largely accepted that to be taken seriously you should at least attempt to follow a recognised format for screenwriting. Most of the rules about fonts, margins, page size etc. exist so that scripts follow the very rough formula of one page roughly equalling one minute. The most common way of doing this is as follows:

1. Scripts should be typed in 12 point courier in order to conform to the page a minute rule. Do note that the rule is an average one and the reality is more like 1 page of dialogue = 30 seconds, balanced out by 1 page of action = 2 minutes or more. Either way a script that comes in at longer than 100 pages indicates either a long film or a dialogue-heavy one (or both) with both types of film more difficult to finance and to sell….

2. Margins should be approx 3cm; Text should be justified to the left, with dialogue tabbed approx. 5cm from left; and character names centred.

3. Character names should be centred above dialogue and written in CAPITALS, except when they occur in the actual dialogue. An alternative here is the US method which only puts the character in CAPS when he/she first appears. This makes the first entrance clear for every department – useful for readers and also for make-up, costume, etc, – and avoids the sense that the writer is SHOUTING.

4. Double space stage directions from the dialogue; single space the lines of the stage directions themselves; use a single return between the name of the character speaking and the dialogue that follows.

5. Directions should be written in CAPS (eg INT. PUB – DAY)

6. Number scenes on the left. There is some discussion about not numbering until you have been asked to provide a shooting script, immediately prior to production. From that point on the numbers are “locked” and can never be changed. After the numbered shooting script, any new scenes are inserted, eg: 7a, 7b… and deleted scenes are marked as such, eg: 6 SCENE DELETED. They should also be copied on different coloured paper for each redraft. But none of this should concern scripts which haven’t yet been bought.

It is of course possible to make life easy with a number of pieces of screenplay formatting software, the most common of which is Final Draft. The UK edition of Final Draft Screenwriting Software seems to be the serious screenwriter’s software of choice. It’s widely endorsed by industry figures.

While Final Draft is more popular amongst writers, Screenwriter 2000 has stronger production features and integration with MM Scheduling and Budgeting. Other than that, it’s usually down to personal preference.

Free formats
There are a number of free downloadable programmes which have some of the features of Final Draft though most have not been designed to write scripts and so while templates will give you a perfectly formatted script (as will a typewriter), what they will not give you is flexibility and control over your screenplay as you write.

You can set up a template in your Microsoft office program. Go into ‘Styles’ in the formatting menu, set all your styles as per industry format script, type in some keyboard shortcuts so that you can just select and edit text as and when you want to for Directions, Speech, Parenthetical business etc, and just type away. The master scene script is set in a single column format. With the left edge of the paper at zero and your type preferences in picas, give your copy horizontal spacing thus:

10 – sequence numbers
15 – directions – 75
30 – speeches – 60
40 – parenthetical business – 55
45 – names of speakers
60 – transitions
75 – page numbers (although this is the least important setting)

Assign all the type in Courier New 12pt type, put these settings in your style menu in word and assign them short cuts (ie: ‘control + 1’ for directions, ‘control + 2’ for speeches etc.). You can set your CONT’s and page numbers in your header and footer menu, then save the whole document as a template which you go into every time you are writing a script. Then, just type. When you return to your work later and highlight each section you can use your short cuts to format it.

Fright and Suspense in Children’s Theater

I’m currently working on an original project for a children’s theater group and the question keeps coming up in my mind: How frightening can a scene be when creating for children’s theater.

Many times while talking with the seedy underbelly of society (yes, I am referring to thespians, or as Stephen Dietz says in his Dracula; “that theater crowd”), the subject will come up of our favorite scenes we remember as a child. And in that conversation eventually it will come to the scenes that frightened us the most.

I used to think this was only MY experience, that I was frightened out of my wits by things that now seem borderline comical – but I have been enlightened that my experience has been common for tens of thousands of others as well.


  • Wizard of Oz – Anytime the Wicked Witch of the West shows up – especially the first scene when she meets Dorothy, and ESPECIALLY when she sends her flying monkeys out. I think I was five years old when I watched this for the first time (I still heckle my Mother for the fact that she would not come sit with me and protect me from the witch!)
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – When that evil long nosed man in black tricks the two children into entering his candy wagon, which turns into a cage once they enter and they are rushed off to captivity.
  • In The Hall of the Mountain King – In first grade I saw a video of Grieg’s “In The Hall of the Mountain King” (which you might not know by the name, but would certainly know it once you heard it) – but they had a chorus singing the melody to “Witches in the Pumpkin Patch” and the witches danced around in a field. Very creepy. I think the adults who made it thought it was supposed to be cute – well, not to this first grader.
  • Pumpkin Head – Just the thought of Pumpkin Head brings a shiver down my spine to this day.
  • Mother Goose – We sang Mother Goose songs as kids and never thought a thing about it. It was great fun. Then one day you make the mistake of actually reading the words – EEGADS! It’s hideous.
  • A Christmas Carol – The Ghost of Christmas Future. In ANY version of the Dicken’s tale I would have to hide behind something and peek out every ten seconds or so.
  • Pinnochio – The whale didn’t scare me, but when Pinocchio gets donkey ears and all the kids turn to donkeys, then they start breying – THAT freaks me out. As a kid you don’t know it’s going to be better, you just know he’s a donkey. Even as a kid, imagining the biological process of turning into a donkey made me almost faint. Do your organs turn inside out? Yuck.
  • Snow White – When the Queen talks to the mirror, that mirror guy was very scary. When Snow White takes the apple and you’re yelling at the screen “No, don’t!” – but she does it anyway (every single time I watched it, which is upsetting she never learned). Then the henchmen take Snow White to the woods to cut out her heart? They don’t actually do it, but the Queen thinks they did and she’s ok with that. DOUBLE YUCK!
  • Fantasia – The whole thing.
  • Land of the Lost – Those darn Sleestak. They move so slow and make that creepy hissing sound, but what happens if they actually catch you? I think they put you in a web or something.
  • H.R. Pufnstuf – The opening scene before the show starts, when the happy pretty little boat turns black and scary. Then Witchie Poo was always scary. I had lots of nightmares as a kid that starred Witchie Poo – when she finally caught me I would wake up and not move for like ten minutes.
  • Sesame Street – Snuffleupagus, Snufflupugus, Snuffulupagus (different spellings). This goes under the “suspense” category. It was SO aggravating as a kid that only Big Bird could see Snufflupugus. I yelled at the screen really loud to, but to no avail.
  • The Ghost and Mr. Chicken – As a kid the organ playing in the mansion was frightening. And then to find out there was blood on the keys. Now when I watch this movie it’s very funny, but as a kid it was like going into a haunted house (which it was).
  • Fiddler on the Roof – The scene where the grandmother rises from the grave, sings a VERY scary song in that screechy spooky voice, then chases Tevya through the graveyard. I’m including it even though it’s not children’s theater, because that’s my #1 pick for a creepy scene.
  • That’s all I can think of right now. You might recognize some of these yourself and are might be saying “But that was FUNNY, he was scared of that?”

    I am very scared of heights, so I love going on rides that are very tall. I get white knuckles and can’t even speak while waiting for the ride to start. An example is the Tower of Terror at Disneyland’s California Adventure.

    “But”, you say, “I thought you said you were afraid of heights, so you mean you DON’T like going on tall rides.” No. well…I mean I don’t like it, but I DO go on them intentionally because it’s such a rush. To someone who’s not afraid of heights it’s just another ride, but to someone like me it’s something I fret about ALL DAY while at the park – and when it’s over, what a great feeling!

    There’s an exhiliration to these things once they are over. A feeling of accomplishment – you dared to do something and came out ok.

    And yes, I was the kid in swim class you laughed at because he was the last to jump off the diving board. (I’m still surprised I’m alive after that.)

    In children’s theater if there’s a happy ending to a suspenseful scene, should you let the audience know right away or leave them hanging? Is it mean to leave them hanging or part of the adrenalin ride? Fun question.

    You can fill a children’s presentation with morales and monologues on what is to be learned, but for me it’s the adrenalin moments that I remember. Looking at a mountain peak and saying “Yes, I’ve been there.” That’s a great feeling for a child.

    Through the Looking Glass – Complete Text

    THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (AND WHAT ALICE FOUND THERE) Complete tex. Written by Lewis Carroll and released in 1872.

  • Chapter 1 – Looking Glass House
  • Chapter 2 – The Garden of Live Flowers
  • Chapter 3 – Looking-Glass Insects
  • Chapter 4 – Tweedledum and Tweedledee
  • Chapter 5 – Wool and Water
  • Chapter 6 – Humpty Dumpty
  • Chapter 7 – The Lion and the Unicorn
  • Chapter 8 – `It’s my own Invention’
  • Chapter 9 – Queen Alice
  • Chapter 10 – Shaking
  • Chapter 11 – Waking
  • Chapter 12 – Which Dreamed it?
  • Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (‘Lewis Carroll’) – believed to be a self-portrait


    Original Cover for Through The Looking Glass



    Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (January 27, 1832 – January 14, 1898), better known by the pen name Lewis Carroll, was an English author, mathematician, logician, Anglican clergyman, and photographer.

    His most famous writings are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass as well as the poems “The Hunting of the Snark” and “Jabberwocky”, all considered to be within the genre of literary nonsense.

    His facility at word play, logic, and fantasy has delighted audiences ranging from children to the literary elite. But beyond this, his work has become embedded deeply in modern culture. He has directly influenced many artists.

    There are societies dedicated to the enjoyment and promotion of his works and the investigation of his life in many parts of the world including North America, Japan, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand.

    His biography has recently come under much question as a result of what some call the “Carroll Myth.”


    Alice ponders what the world is like on the other side of a mirror, and to her surprise, is able to pass through to experience the alternate world. She discovers a book with looking-glass poetry, “Jabberwocky,” which she can read only by holding it up to a mirror. Upon leaving the house, she enters a garden, where the flowers speak to her and mistake her for a flower. There, Alice also meets the Red Queen, who offers a throne to Alice if she just moves to the eighth rank in a chess match. Alice is placed as the White Queen’s pawn, and begins the game by taking a train to the fourth rank, since pawns in chess can move two spaces on the first move.

    She then meets Tweedledum and Tweedledee, of whom she knows from the famous nursery rhyme. After reciting to her the long poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” the two proceed to act out the events of their own poem. Alice continues on to meet the White Queen, who is very absent-minded and later transforms into a sheep.

    The following chapter details her meeting with Humpty Dumpty, who explains to her the meaning of “Jabberwocky,” before his inevitable fall from the wall. This is followed by an encounter with the Lion and the Unicorn, who again proceed to act out a nursery rhyme. She is then rescued from the Red Knight by the White Knight, who many consider to be a representation of Lewis Carroll himself.

    At this point, she reaches the eight rank and becomes a queen, and by capturing the Red Queen, puts the Red King (who has remained stationary throughout the book) into checkmate. She then awakes from her dream (if it had been a dream), and blames her black kitten (the white kitten was wholly innocent) for the mischief caused by the story. The two kittens are the children of Dinah, Alice’s cat in the first book.


    * Prelude
    * Jabberwocky (seen in the mirror-house)
    * Tweedledum and Tweedledee
    * The Walrus and the Carpenter
    * Humpty Dumpty
    * “In Winter when the fields are white…”
    * Haddocks’ Eyes / The Aged Aged Man / Ways and Means / A-sitting on a gate (see Haddocks eyes) The song is A sitting on a gate, but its other names and callings are placed above.
    * To the Looking-Glass world it was Alice that said…
    * White Queen’s riddle
    * “A boat beneath a sunny sky”, the first line of a title-less poem at the end of the book that is an acrostic: the beginning letters of each line together spell Alice Pleasance Liddell.

    Through the Looking Glass – Chapter Twelve

    Your majesty shouldn’t purr so loud,’ Alice said, rubbing her eyes, and addressing the kitten, respectfully, yet with some severity. `You woke me out of oh! such a nice dream! And you’ve been along with me, Kitty — all through the Looking-Glass world. Did you know it, dear?’ It is a very inconvenient habit of kittens (Alice had once made the remark) that, whatever you say to them, they Always purr. `If them would only purr for “yes” and mew for “no,” or any rule of that sort,’ she had said, `so that one could keep up a conversation! But how can you talk with a person if they always say the same thing?’

    On this occasion the kitten only purred: and it was impossible to guess whether it meant `yes’ or `no.’

    So Alice hunted among the chessmen on the table till she had found the Red Queen: then she went down on her knees on the hearth-rug, and put the kitten and the Queen to look at each other. “Now, Kitty!’ she cried, clapping her hands triumphantly. `Confess that was what you turned into!’

    (`But it wouldn’t look at it,’ she said, when she was explaining the thing afterwards to her sister: `it turned away its head, and pretended not to see it: but it looked a little ashamed of itself, so I think it must have been the Red Queen.’)

    `Sit up a little more stiffly, dear!’ Alice cried with a merry laugh. `And curtsey while you’re thinking what to — what to purr. It saves time, remember!’ And she caught it up and gave it one little kiss, `just in honour of having been a Red Queen.’

    `Snowdrop, my pet!’ she went on, looking over her shoulder at the White Kitten, which was still patiently undergoing its toilet, `when will Dinah have finished with your White Majesty, I wonder? That must be the reason you were so untidy in my dream – – Dinah! do you know that you’re scrubbing a White Queen? Really, it’s most disrespectful of you!

    `And what did dinah turn to, I wonder?’ she prattled on, as she settled comfortably down, with one elbow in the rug, and her chin in her hand, to watch the kittens. `Tell me, Dinah, did you turn to Humpty Dumpty? I think you did — however, you’d better not mention it to your friends just yet, for I’m not sure.

    `By the way, Kitty, of only you’d been really with me in my dream, there was one thing you would have enjoyed — I had such a quantity of poetry said to me, all about fishes! To-morrow morning you shall have a real treat. All the time you’re eating your breakfast, I’ll repeat “The Walrus and the Carpenter” to you; and then you can make believe it’s oysters, dear!

    `Now, Kitty, let’s consider who it was that dreamed it all. This is a serious question, my dear, and you should not go on licking your paw like that — as if Dinah hadn’t washed you this morning! You see, Kitty, it must have been either me or the Red King. He was part of my dream, of course — but then I was part of his dream, too! was it the Red King, Kitty. You were his wife, my dear, so you ought to know — Oh, Kitty, do help to settle it! I’m sure your paw can wait!’ But the provoking kitten only began on the other paw, and pretended it hadn’t heard the question.

    Which do you think it was?

    A boat beneath a sunny sky,
    Lingering onward dreamily
    In an evening of July —

    Children three that nestle near,
    Eager eye and willing ear,
    Pleased a simple tale to hear —

    Long had paled that sunny sky:
    Echoes fade and memories die.
    Autumn frosts have slain July.

    Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
    Alice moving under skies
    Never seen by waking eyes.

    Children yet, the tale to hear,
    Eager eye and willing ear,
    Lovingly shall nestle near.

    In a Wonderland they lie,
    Dreaming as the days go by,
    Dreaming as the summers die:

    Ever drifting down the stream —
    Lingering in the golden gleam —
    Life, what is it but a dream?