Tag Archives: concepts

Kids. Theatre. Art.

14 Mar

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Stumbled on a Tumblr last night, linking to others that, all-collected, formed most of a young cast and their experiences of putting on this show.

…Totally fascinating…reading their processes in raw-thought form, thrown out there with zero editing of  their emotions and frustrations as they fought to balance out school schedules, homework, dating, rehearsals, finals and wrapping their heads around the history of the piece.

Written in 2006, these back-and-forth tagged Tumblrs and blogs are free-formed by High School students, who by now have most likely graduated College and gotten married, and started having children of their own.  Which is kinda mind-blowing, even not having known the kids personally…only because of the knowledge that they have this forever-record of that point in their lives, written down (much like Anne), which others can read and experience, further mirroring the book and show itself.

Really intriguing thoughts, actually. 

…Some in simple questioned innocents, some with down-and-dirty sleeves-rolled-up research, some likening their own personal experiences to Anne and their own characters…and some just excited by the whole process.

The thing that really got to me though, was the point…totally individual to each…when they “got it.”  The point where the full weight of what the show and this girl’s experiences were all about, actually sunk into them…and how each of them dealt with it.

Personal. Raw. Specific.

…These kids, through ART, were given a new way to access and view something from history that they already knew about since middle-school.  That restriction of: “this is a book about a teenage girl, in Amsterdam, in WWII,” was suddenly (and in some cases emotionally violently) altered for them once the process of physical “empathy” was put into place.

To read about a girl from the far-past, in a place they could not recognize, and had no tangible relateable association with at first glance…had limited a lot of them at the book’s first reading. Some were embarrassed by it’s pubescent topics, some shut off by the distant time frame in which it was written, some by the country they didn’t recognize…or the Politics they couldn’t understand…while some did actually take it personally and to heart. But the range there was wide.

…Through the process of ownership in their roles, though…you can actually SEE that begin to change…and the kids changing with it.

What they start out writing about in an off-hand remarks, early in the rehearsal process, begins to change to a kind of hungry obsession over time. They begin pulling out quotes from the script, and matching it to the diary…they write mini-bios, and suck up European political history like sponges. They become in awe of the magnitude in the numbers…which are no longer just “numbers,” but for the first time begin to represent actual “people” to them, now that they are actually portraying one of them…each with lives and families and homes and dreams of their own. They begin to question, and get angry, and become activists for a cause which now has become as real to them as anything they may have to deal with in their current day-to-day lives. They build genuine affection for their “characters”…defending their deeds in posts, and against Anne’s words…and explaining WHY they think and act and say the things they do.

…They become totally engrossed, as the posts move along…building not only on their own, but commenting on one another’s in debate, and agreement, and camaraderie.

And it is fucking FANTASTIC.

You see: THIS is what “Art” does.

THIS is why it is so essential, and why it’s disappearance from our Schools is so completely devastating.

“Art” is not just a “hobby.” “Art” isn’t an “extracurricular activity.” “Art” is “Humanity.” Straight-up. It is our one point of access to all that it is (and ever was) to be human. And without it, we are sorely damaging our future potential…and in severe danger of repeating our greatest mistakes.

And HERE is a prime example.

…Written by school children, grown now into adults, who BECAUSE of “art” experienced something so palpable that “History” became alive to them, “Politics” became important, “Numbers” meant more than mere addition and subtraction, the “Written Word” jumped off the pages at them, and “Science” in the research, reason and attempt to understand why and what it all meant, became totally essential to them.

…And yet, with all of that put together, it STILL could not hold the realization of the emotional strength and repercussions that actual “embodiment” had on each of them. The power of empathy…of PUTTING YOURSELF into another’s place…of FEELING the fear, and hunger, and pain, and sadness…of MAKING IT PERSONAL…it changed them, not just as “children” or “students,” but as HUMAN BEINGS.

…Once taught empathy, education, the difference between right and wrong…passion for history and learning…you can’t un-teach it. You can try, attempt to mind-wash and assault the brain all you like. But if given a good, strong, root to grow…early on…I don’t believe there is anything that can break that. Or the spirit it infuses, like Anne’s, to fight for your right to it.

“There are no walls, there are no bolts, no locks that anyone can put on your mind.”

…It was something Mr. Frank once told Anne, and something she often went back to as a form of solace, a comfort, an outlet…a form of expression.

…Because any form of educated obsession, release, curiosity, excitement, empathy…is a kind of art.

Because SHE was encouraged to release herself in it, we have her diary today. Because those kids were encouraged to release themselves in it, their lives were changed. The same way that mine constantly is. And Meryl Streep. And Picasso’s was. And Steven Spielberg. And Maria Callas. And Leonard da Vinci, and Stephen King, and Gertrude Stein, and Albert Einstein, Billie Jean King, and Stephen Hawking.

…So really, what I’m saying is: people learn and become inspired in so many different ways…going on to inspire and educate others, likewise. I’d like to assume you’d want every opportunity you can grasp onto, to make sure your kids get every option to become the best that they can be…as people and parents of their own children someday.

If you already practice an art of your own, there’s no need to tell you this, but if not: Listen up. I promise…it isn’t just a flippant accessory to life. It is a necessity. It’s brought us our greatest humanitarians, and thinkers, and doers we have ever produced as a human race. It breeds intelligence. It fosters hope. It counters depression, and fear, and anger.

It belongs in our schools.

…If only, to dust off the tired words in old textbook pages, and make all the other academics and political concepts and histories and numbers and sciences more real to the people who will be running this planet some day.

Think about it.

~D

A Quote To Work By

18 Feb

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Today, mid-study, I found a particular quote about “life” that astounds me so much, under such drastic circumstances, that there is nothing I can contribute to it, only honor it and the voice who made it.  Thought I’d share, as I begin on a new journey of work and life, and you start on and continue your own.

It’s something to think about:

**

“One day this terrible war will be over. The time will come when we’ll be people again and not just Jews!

Who has inflicted this on us? Who has set us apart from all the rest? Who has put us through such suffering? It’s God who has made us the way we are, but it’s also God who will lift us up again. In the eyes of the world, we’re doomed, but if, after all this suffering, there are still Jews left, the Jewish people will be held up as an example. Who knows, maybe our religion will teach the world and all the people in it about goodness, and that’s the reason, the only reason, we have to suffer. We can never be just Dutch, or just English, or whatever, we will always be Jews as well. And we’ll have to keep on being Jews, but then, we’ll want to be.

Be brave! Let’s remember our duty and perform it without complaint. There will be a way out. God has never deserted our people. Through the ages Jews have had to suffer, but through the ages they’ve gone on living, and the centuries of suffering have only made them stronger. The weak shall fall and the strong shall survive and not be defeated!

…I know what I want, I have a goal, I have opinions, a religion and love. If only I can be myself, I’ll be satisfied. I know that I’m a woman, a woman with inner strength and a great deal of courage! If God lets me live…I’ll go out into the world and work for mankind!

I now know that courage and happiness are needed first!”

~Anne M. Frank
2 years, 3 months, 5 days into hiding
Age 14

**

…Thanks, Anne.

With love and genuine admiration,

From: A bitching, self-centered, asshole who forgets (a lot of the time), how phenomenally blessed and lucky she is.

~D

Miserable Joy

21 Sep

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By now, prob’ly EVERYONE has seen this sneak-peek trailer of Les Mis…but in case you’re the one guy who hasn’t: here it is.

Now lets talk for a second about the main reason this brings me so much joy. (And beware…cuz I’m gonna get super passionate about it.)

…It isn’t so much the cast (though I am so happy right now about the choices made, that I could throw a party and pop champagne corks all over the place.)

…It isn’t the fact they have a 70 piece orchestra that will totally go to town until my ears bleed (though you’d think it would be.)

…It isn’t even the intense attention to details in costume and general hardship-grime-ickiness (though, it is a major contender.)

Why it wins the Miserable Joy Award today, is because Cameron Mackintosh (unarguably, this generation’s King of West End Musical Theatre Production), has reconfirmed my total trust: that informed acting SHOULD be the key to musical presentation, REGARDLESS of how pretty (or not) it may sound. Acting FIRST, and the rest that follows will be an honest interpretation. As. It. Should. Be.

…If Cameron Mackintosh, is willing to back that and put it on celluloid for all of time, to the extent of allowing his actors to do their work LIVE and in the moment…if HE is willing to say, “pretty ain’t the purpose, people…what you FEEL is”…then I gotta greet that man with a whole slew of virtual high fives and “fuck yeahs!”

Ripping an audience out of an emotional moment in order to deliver note-for-note perfection, should not be how we do things in theatre performance, people. Lets leave “pre-recording” in the studio, where it belongs. Lets leave that to the Opera, where the entire PERFORMANCE is based around the music itself.

…”Musical Theatre” is another animal entirely…and it should be…that’s why it has a different name.

…The importance should be on the characters and their journeys. Sometimes, yes, it is just based on a strawberry-shortcake kind of plot with hearts and roses and not much else. So sure, that’s not gonna be the greatest acting challenge…and the musical intent will pretty much follow suit and take the lead.

…But when you have a guts and glory kind of musical…where people are in WARS, they are HOMELESS, they are STARVING, they’ve been BEATEN, and TERRORIZED…they live in a form of HELL and are AT THE END OF THEIR ROPE…PLEASE don’t stop everything and sing your soliloquy like your million dollar musical training coach has reamed into you, with note-by-note perfection. I wanna FEEL what you are FEELING right now…I don’t give a SHIT if your voice rasps with anger, or cracks from emotion…I don’t CARE if you run out of air and can’t hold the note for the full extended 26 measures. If your sobs make you drool, if you can’t even barely squeak out in SPOKEN WORD, what we already know are specific notes, painstakingly composed by one musical genius or another.

…That is okay by me.

In fact, I PREFER it.

BRING ME WITH YOU ON YOUR JOURNEY. The whole messy, painful, heartsick part of it. And leave those “musical perfections” for another day.

…What Annie Hathaway said in that interview is IT, entirely. As a performer, you should have a responsibility to service the role as it was written…and it is meant to be played. It is a disservice to throw that all out the window for vanity’s sake because it might not be the most beautiful thing to witness…and might not be the best version that you are musically capable of truly achieving. As an actor, you should be willing to make this sacrifice, equal to smearing dirt on your face, shearing your hair off, and losing 20 pounds, in order to achieve it. Or get the hell off the stage.

…If you can’t deal with these necessary details of live performance, get yourself a recording contract, and become the next concert-touring super star. Own it! I will prob’ly even buy your record and love the HELL out of it! Seriously. Because that is art TOO, and I envy and appreciate the HELL out of it. Within it’s own world of existence.

…But if you are in this thing called “theatre”…with all your GUTS, then BE IN IT. Please. Please. Please.

And, “Thank you.”

…Because, believe it or not…there are a LOT of performers out there who actually do this, and do it astonishingly well.

As for the rest, I can only hope they will become utterly infected by this film, and bring a renewed energy into the entire genre of performance, making it a new universal “norm.”

…God, I am just so exited about it all, I could just sob with relief. Really.

Thank you, Mr. Mackintosh.

Again.

…For like the forty-billionth time this decade.

~D

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