Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Simple Answer

"Okay, so this part is one of my favorites," I explained as I paused track 6 on the Newsies CD currently playing in the car.  "When he says, 'Pulitzer may own the World but he don't own us,' it is a play on words. The actual newspaper that this guy, Pulitzer, owns is called The World.  But Pulitzer also acts like his is powerful enough to own the whole world.  So that lyric is really clever because it really means two things at once."

This is what the kids and I do on long drives; we pop in a musical they haven't heard before, and they listen to the music while I narrate.  Sometimes I have to generalize the plot a bit (as with this week's selection, Evita), while other times I am stopping between each track to tell the character's names, their backstories, and their motivations.  I like to think it is kind of like a literature lesson, but with music.  And my boys eat it up! 

Along with the actual plot, plenty of my history tends to seep through.  Maybe this week, I will tell them about my friend Becca who first introduced me to great musicals like Evita and Chess.  Maybe when they get older, I will tell them about how the first time I saw Newsies was on the bus to California for choir tour, and how a cute boy named Scott held my hand throughout the whole movie but then ignored me for the whole trip.  I'll draw the connections to the actors and actresses, too.  When we listen to Once on this Island, as we often do, I will tell them that Aunt Michelle once played TiMoune and how awesome she was. And that this was the origin of Dad's "happy tree, sad tree" schtick.

I know I don't just do this with my kids.  Ask me about Into the Woods, and then sit down for the run down I am sure to give.  And it isn't just musicals, either.  I promise: you do not want to get me started on Anne McCaffrey's books set on the fictional planet Pern.  I think it is basic human nature to want to share the things that shaped you.  To shout their lessons from the rooftops in hopes that maybe one person will see the world in the same way you see it.  If not human nature, it is definitely my nature. 

While I could continue on in the same vein, I've actually written these four paragraphs as an introduction to my current opportunity to be a part of the musical The Drowsy Chaperone.  I know it isn't a well-known show, and I have had many people ask me what it is about.  The complicated answer includes four weddings, some monkeys, a plane crash, a tap number, and an Aviatrix (that's me).  But the simple answer is paralleled by my long-winded introduction.

The Drowsy Chaperone is about that CD you always play when you're feeling a little sad.  The one you use to turn your mood around.  It is about the way you talk about it when you try to explain it to someone else.  The way you are forced to realize that Billy Joel's Stormfront isn't all chart toppers.  The disappointment when a scratch interrupts your favorite track, and you are left trying to explain that it really is great... I promise.  This show is about the memories that come flooding back when you hear a song that was popular when you were in high school, or when you realize that there are huge gaping holes in the plot to Miss Saigon that you're really just guessing at, because you will likely never get a chance to see it live.  The Drowsy Chaperone is about using music to escape, and I am fairly certain it is a theme that is universal.

For the record, it is also hilariously entertaining!  But that isn't why I want you to come see it.  Come be the passenger as Man in Chair narrates his favorite musical.  Let him stop and start the music to fill in bits of the plot and pieces of his own life.  Give him the opportunity to shout its virtue, to downplay its follies, and to let this piece of something that he loves so much find a place in your own heart. 

Oh, and I am on stage, too.

Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays - September 11 through Oct 3rd - Empress Theatre in Magna, UT.
If you would be interested in discount tickets, let me know.  There is usually a discount code the week before the show opens, and I will keep you posted.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Unsentimental Journey

I am not a sentimental person. I was raised by a mother who thinks flowers are a waste of money and in a home where special occasions just weren't that big of deal. Add to that the fact that I tend to be quite private about the things that are most important to me, and suddenly it makes sense that only once since joining social media have I publicly acknowledged my anniversary. But I have to say that lately, my already incredible husband has intentionally stepped it up a notch, leaving messages on my mirror, taking me on more dates, and going places he really has no interest in going, just to be with me. It's like every day, he wakes up thinking, "How can I make her fall in love with me today?"

Most days, I just get awkward. Although I love the attention, I don't always know how to process it. Instead of sweet messages, I write silly things on his mirror. But one recent day, I was randomly struck by the desire to reciprocate his romanticism. So I did what I do, and I wrote.

We don't usually celebrate anniversaries at our house. It may sound cheesy, but when you have the kind of every day we do, it just doesn't seem necessary. But I thought this year, maybe I could give Kirk a small gift.

To publicly recognize fourteen years of friendship, partnership, and love:

Once upon a time, there lived a Princess. This Princess wasn't quite like all the others. She wasn't bound by glass or hidden in a tower. She wasn't in an enchanted sleep or under any curse. In fact, the only thing that held this Princess back was Time.

She was also quite different in that her search for a Prince was over. He waltzed right in one day, and without even having to slay any Dragons, he won her heart.

Still, the Prince knew life with this Princess would not be easy; every single day he would have to watch her fight against Time. Some days, he would be right there in the battle. Other days, he would watch from afar. And on the worst days, she would battle alone, returning only to sleep by his side.

And unlike any other Princess that ever existed, her monster simply could not be vanquished. For in place of a heart and lungs, she'd been given a timepiece. The very force that enslaved her was also the one that gave her life, for she drew breath along with the secondhand. Her heart beat to the careful rhythm of Time.

Slowly, the Prince and Princess learned not to fight against time, but rather to learn to control it. To bend it. To manipulate it. To trick it. To steal it. 

Slowly, the timepiece became not a burden, but a power.

And unlike all the other Princes and Princesses fighting so hard just to like each other still, these ones fought every day just to get to be together.

And every day the Princess felt grateful to have found a Prince who demands nothing. Who instead simply holds her hand

And lets her battle Time.

Oh, and I also got him a mug. It says #fiveyearplan, which is an inside joke we share with my mom. Fourteen years in, and I feel richer than he ever promised.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Real Question About Dreams

Last night, Michelle and an old friend Zack Hatch danced together at a Renaissance Fair.  Not actually, but in the dream I had just before waking, it definitely happened.  I was running late, having stopped at a window to buy a custom dress.  I was being pinned into the yellow fabric as the salesperson cut out my leather corset when they entered.  Michelle was singing lyrics I've never before heard to a melody I definitely have, which lead me to believe the song was from Moulin Rouge (though upon waking, it most certainly wasn't). The dance was incredibly technical and athletic, which made the woman working on my dress gasp repeatedly in disapproval, as the costume Michelle wore clearly highlighted the fact that she was about six months pregnant.  The song itself was angry; clearly Zack was a jerk and a deadbeat dad, and she was completely willing to point out all his faults.  There were 8 or 10 male backup dancers as well, who facilitated the many lifts and throws.  The Renaissance crowd erupted with applause at the conclusion of the dance, and I promptly awoke.

...wondering, not for the first time, how I can dream stuff like that.  I mean, it isn't really surprising that I frequently dream in musical, theatrical production numbers.  But here's what I don't get:

Who wrote those lyrics I have never heard?

And who choreographed that dance?

These were not vagaries.  I popped immediately out of bed this morning to pen my thoughts before they completely vanished in the daylight, and by intentionally grasping at them, I can still picture a few of the acrobatic stunts.  This was no general impression of amazing dancing and SYTYCD caliber choreography.  This was the actual deal.

How does that happen?  Where did those images and ideas come from?

It makes me think of the great master composer, Mozart, who didn't so much write music as write down the music that was already playing in his mind.  It makes me wonder if, for those of us less genius than Mozart, there is some great barrier in consciousness that blocks our ability to tap into the raw creativity of the subconscious.  Are we really all masters, but with varying abilities to access it?

Then I kind of think of the great comedians, actors, musicians, and artists afflicted by substance abuse.  I wonder if the drugs and alcohol weaken that boundary?  Allow them to dream in consciousness?  Allow them to say, to be, to write, to represent things that otherwise would be trapped and accessibly only in dreams.

As an amateur lyricist, composer, and choreographer, I can't help but wake up wondering, "How did my mind do that?  Was that me?  Do I have the potential to be that great?"  And then I just wonder at the logistics.  I mean, it would take me hours to choreograph a piece of that length.  Another set of hours to determine the costuming.  At least an hour to rewrite the lyrics.  Let's say I am 10 mental hours into a project of that scope were it real.  Logistically, when did those hours happen?  Did I carefully think those thoughts, one by one, without seeing them on the Dream Screen?  Have I been piecing it together over a week's worth of sleep?  Or, as if by spontaneous combustion, can my brain do all of that, simultaneously and instantaneously, in its literal sleep?

I wish that in waking, I could do that.  I wish you all could have seen the dance.  It was powerful and moving (and I am fairly certain was probably a representation of my feelings regarding my best friend's impending divorce).  Besides, Michelle was singing, so of course I wish I could share it with you.

To be or not to be?  Nah.

How to be...

...as imaginative
...as uninhibited
...as masterful
...as detailed
...as emotional
...as creative

as the girl who dreams while I sleep.