Posted in Fine Arts

“The Sun Also Rises” on Hemingway’s 2nd String

You are all a lost generation.

In literature, the “Lost Generation” refers to the post-World War I mentality of people (more specifically, writers) who lost their sense of purpose and contentedness in the aftermath of the conflict’s horrors. Many of them seemed to travel aimlessly, some suffered from a degree of PTSD, and all of it is reflected in their work.

The above quote is attributed to Gertrude Stein, a close friend of Ernest Hemingway, and is used in the opening of The Sun Also Rises…Hemingway’s novel that is considered to be a seminal expression of the Lost Generation’s feelings.

It saddens me when I think of the despair felt by so many during this time. Sure, it led to the genesis of some great literary art, but at what cost? Famously, Hemingway never seemed to recover from these sentiments and took his own life in 1961.

As I spend time with my peers these days- and read their outpourings on social media- I cannot help but fear that a 2nd Lost Generation is fast forming.

Many current events are grim, just as they were a century ago. (In different ways, to be certain, but nevertheless unfortunate.) And I’d venture that a fair chunk of them are linked to the U.S. political climate that has reared its ugly head within the past three years. Never in my life have I seen neighbors so ideologically divided.

What has happened?

And never in my life have I witnessed friends, colleagues, and assorted young people have so much disillusionment for their world. I see many of them take stands for causes they believe in- which is great- while at the same time numbing the pessimistic impulses with alcohol, drugs, and broken relationships.

Even in the arts, the subject matter has shifted. Where was once musical comedies and disco beats now sit topical dramas and tributes to those who experienced untimely deaths. You could argue that global trends (political and otherwise) will ebb and flow; assuming that’s true, I still never expected it to occur in my lifetime.

I feel like I’m dancing around a point here, but I somehow can’t manage to say it outright. I guess what I’m saying is that I lament this 2nd Lost Generation. So many of us have this untapped potential that is being weighed down, like Atlas. I can only pray that a new horizon comes about quickly enough to save the lives of those who weren’t born idealists to begin with.

It was too late for Ernest Hemingway.

ernesthemingway

Advertisements
Posted in Writing

“Sky Full of Stars” (Theme from…)

by Amanda DeLalla

We were kindred souls
Even with our clearly-set roles
I could tell from your sparkling eyes
How my heart was in for a surprise
In my head
I would remember every word you said
Carved craters on the moon
In my head
Stained like the surface of Mars with red
Giving both life and ruin
(Refrain) And all I see when you’re with me
Is a sky full of stars
Complex as cosmology
And so very far
Maybe one day you’ll understand it
How I might as well be on another planet
Just me where you are in a sky full of stars (End refrain)
Circumstance isn’t kind to me
I know well that this never should be
You’ve got plenty of things to do
I fear nothing when I’m standing with you
All this time
I’ve felt I’m guilty of some awful crime
Floating up on some cloud
All this time
Loving you like this is an endless climb
Loving you ain’t allowed
(Refrain)
Take me on a rocket to fly
So I’ll never have to say goodbye
Take me on a rocket to fly
No I never wanna ever have to say goodbye!

portrait_emiko

Posted in Personals

How to Be Saved

Howdy! Sorry this post is so delayed…it may be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but it’s gotten off to a bit of a rocky start. I’ve been stressed out for a while and finding it difficult to buckle down on what I want/need to do.

There’s a certain line in Hugh Wheeler’s book for A Little Night Music

“I should never have gone to flirt with rescue when one has no intention of being saved.”

These words are spoken by Fredrik Egerman right before his soulmate, Desiree Armfeldt, sings “Send in the Clowns.” Fredrik and Desiree regret that their paths didn’t cross at the right times; they are now both changed people, and frustrated that their present circumstances will likely keep them apart.

Of course, for those two, the musical comedy world mandates that they overcome this obstacle and get together in the end. In the real world, it’s more complicated.

I often think about myself, and how I’ve always felt a need to “save” people. But I also think about how I occasionally think that I, too, need to be “saved.” What does it all mean? Why do I feel this compulsion to make people happy, to lighten their burdens? It doesn’t fall on me to do it for them, especially if they don’t want to be “rescued” from whatever they’re going through.

But Lord, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to be the one who makes it better from them. As for me- to name an example- I look at this one relationship of mine. How one of the things I really like about it is that it enables me to “escape.” But at the same time, I don’t think I am doing all I can to save myself…for reasons both internal and external. And tethering the “escape” to an interpersonal relationship creates unnecessary pressure for the other party, and dependence within myself.

I suppose the point of this whole thing is the following: do I keep trying to rescue others, or know when to stop? And at the end of the day, can I gain a new life for myself?

Posted in Theatre

And the Band plays on

I had lots of adventures this week. Between that viewing of The Star and a job interview and touring the National Arts Club, I was a busy bee. But perhaps the most exciting thing I did was attending the 1st preview of a Broadway show…a little Atlantic Theater transfer known as The Band’s Visit.

There are very few musicals like The Band’s Visit out there today. Ones that don’t project, don’t spiral, don’t flash…but just ARE.

The show doesn’t even follow a consistent plot arc, really. Each character’s thread- from musical conductor Tewfiq (Tony Shalhoub) to the wistful Telephone Guy (Adam Kantor)- is like a vignette comprising the whole. As the opening lines remind us, the events of the story “aren’t very important.” At least, maybe not in the grand scheme of things…but to these characters, they mean the WORLD.

bv_web1

It might sound like I’m getting philosophical, but you can’t not think about the meaning of The Band’s Visit. If I had to describe it in one word, it would be: simple. Beautifully simple. It cuts through much of the modern musical theatre BS and unearths our shared humanity as only this medium can.

Perhaps that sentiment is best expressed in one of the show’s best numbers, “Omar Sharif,” a haunting solo for Katrina Lenk’s character, Dina. This song is a memory of Dina’s childhood and how music continues to play an important role in her spiritual health. She recaptures that wonderful feeling through her relationship with Tewfiq. Meanwhile, in one of the story’s more comical moments, a charismatic member of the orchestra coaches a young man in the art of talking to girls.

Again- it is all very simple, and yet very real. It reminds me of how an old teacher once described Thornton Wilder’s Our Town: “a celebration of the mundane.” But it is there that we often find the interactions that matter most.

Just by nature of its uniqueness, I hope The Band’s Visit is able to find as much success on Broadway as it did during its run in Chelsea. True, its quietness might not be for every theatergoer…but, in my humble opinion, it is still an important piece of the tapestry called the modern American musical.

Posted in Theatre

Impressions of THE OLDEST BOY

the_oldest_boy6__50000x390_q85_subsampling-2

On one of my always-magical trips to the Drama Book Shop, I picked up a play that I had always been curious about: Sarah Ruhl’s The Oldest Boy. This curiosity stemmed from two things- one, the original Lincoln Center production artwork (which I thought was gorgeous). Two, the premise of the piece, which explores an American mother and Tibetan father faced with a Hobson choice about their three-year-old son.

As an aside, I really hoped that the cover of the published play would have the original Lincoln Center artwork. It did not. Nevertheless, I plunked down my cash and planned to tackle it after reading the libretto of Heathers the Musical. Got some serious diversity going on, don’t I?!

Having completed The Oldest Boy in one bus ride home, I’m going to share some thoughts about it with you guys. For starters, the parents’ big choice arises when they are visited by a pair of Buddhist monks. The monks are immediately drawn to Mother and Father’s little son…as it turns out, he is a reincarnated Lama, or high-ranking Buddhist teacher. Interestingly, Sarah Ruhl dispels that mystery early on; she has said that the play is not about “if,” but “now what.”

The Mother (portrayed by Celia Keenan-Bolger in the original production) is the central character, facing her own spiritual tugs-of-war while deciding whether or not her child should live in an Asian monastery to fulfill his destiny. It’s a meaty, heart-wrenching role, and one I would love to do someday.

The play’s dialogue was surprisingly breezy and easy-to-read…it could have been very lecture-like but was not. And I still learned quite a bit about the doctrines of Tibetan Buddhism (I’ve long had an interest in world religions). Despite the heavy subject matter, Ruhl managed to infuse some humorous moments, too.

The staging requirements for the show were very odd to see on paper. Apparently, there is an optional chorus of Tibetan dancers that appears symbolically at pivotal moments in the story. Furthermore, the role of Tenzin (the son) is actually done by an adult speaking his lines while manipulating a child puppet. It’s a curious dramatic device, and one you don’t see very often. I imagine that when this play is performed by smaller companies, these elements get heavily modified.

I don’t have the resources to properly investigate that, but I can tell you that the original Lincoln Center presentation received mixed reviews. Much of the positivity in these reviews was indeed aimed at the unusual staging and direction by Rebecca Taichman (this year’s Tony winner for Indecent). Knowing such facts, I cannot help but wonder if The Oldest Boy will lose a chunk of its power when done on a smaller scale.

Even while reading it, I pondered how the play could translate as a narrative as opposed to a live piece. Could it be that this work fares better as a novella? I don’t know.

I also did not fully understand the final scene, but that might just be my naïveté. The Mother’s struggles were very moving, and I teared up more than once. These themes- loss, parental attachment, and love- are ones that affect us all. In that regard, which is the purpose of all theatre…I find The Oldest Boy to be a success.

Posted in Personals

It Ain’t Festivus, but I’m Airing Some Grievances

  1. The Broadway.com Awards are the epitome of why “the public” can’t be allowed to vote for anything in the entertainment industry. Why? Because “the public” voting on their smartphones is mostly comprised of close-minded teenagers who are just getting exposed to the theatrical world. Disclaimer: There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Hell, my first “gateway show” was Wicked. Everyone’s got to start somewhere. But unless voters adequately acquire the breadth of knowledge required to judge performances…awards turn into a popularity contest. Which is fine, but then it should be touted as such. Call the category “Favorite Working Actress” instead of “Best Performance by an Actress,” so that when Idina Menzel or Laura Osnes win for shows that close in less than 6 months, it’ll make sense.
  2. On that note, the notion of “parody” adaptations being protected from copyright suits is starting to bother me. You make a mockery out of someone else’s work, and it’s totally fine. You lovingly adapt someone else’s work because you respect the material and want to see it anew, and suddenly you’re cutting legal red tape. It hardly seems fair…but as a friend pointed out to me, it’s also hardly about the art when dollar bills start falling into people’s laps.

breaking

…So to speak.

Okay, my rant’s over.

Posted in Writing

On Writers and their Dark Sides

bizarro_logo

Recently, I read a forum member’s assessment of the new play being presented by MCC Theater: Yen. Their description was as follows:

It’s a stellar production of a disturbing, twisted, and dark play… there are no physical effects or vampires to be found here. It is a raw, animalistic portrayal of 4 characters who cannot love themselves, and are doomed from the start…recommended, but not for the faint of heart.

As I read such an evaluation, I am reminded of works like The Pillowman or even Desire Under the Elms. These are not mere tragedies…these are dark, sword-of-Damocles stories that go beyond the unspeakable side of life. As a reader, I stay away from this kind of lachrymose literature. As a writer, I marvel (is it a form of admiration?) at these other authors’ guts. Where do they come up with these plot points? How is it that they can reach into the darkest depths of their hearts to tell such grim tales?

Jeez Louise. I can’t help but wonder how some playwrights are able to dig into the darkest parts of their souls to come up with such twisted elements. Hell, I had to write a MODERATELY political ONE-ACT last weekend and could barely stand it. I simply do not have the fortitude to stir the pot in this manner. I’m all for making people think and feel through art. But a part of me truly believes that shock value or “wrist-cutting theatre,” as I’ve heard it called, is not the most effective channel to use.

Yes, I know that Shakespeare and Greek tragedians were among the pioneers of this genre. Their plays were chock full of bloodshed and sometimes graphic monologues on how the bloodshed occurred. Shakespeare’s descendants in writing modified these aspects to reflect an ever-evolving world. And they make for compelling, emotional evenings of theatre. I get it.

But at the same time, I surmise that there is a certain “breaking point” of bleakness that nullifies what these playwrights aim to do with their work. We all want to change the world with our art, but audiences can only be pushed so far. They will go from a place of determination to one of despair. And, in many cases, despair manifests as inaction. You get this feeling of, “What is the point?”

When I write, I’m not afraid to include some death or melancholy- of course. Yet I also try to maintain a balance between that stuff and a sentiment of redemption. After all, before anyone can strive for goodness, they must be reminded that goodness still exists. Am I making sense here…?

Posted in Personals

Ruminations on the Babes Who Dream

On this Inauguration Day, I reflect on people’s common dreams and the strife with which we strangle one another in the wake of the volatile election. One person breaks ties with a friend over politics, so-and-so cries in the night with fear or anger. And for what? Who lets it get to that point?

Can’t we admit that deep down, we all want the same things out of life? Is the “American Dream” really so out of reach? When will we realize that no man is an island, and even two polar opposites can be interdependent?

But no- right now, what “matters” is that I don’t interpret the world as you do, and so that makes you my adversary. No middle ground in sight.

I have a niece who is about 18 months old. Understandably, everybody loves her. She is a well-behaved child and a cutie. Although she’s too young to vocalize this now, one day she will have dreams and opinions for herself. She’ll learn in school that she can be whatever she wants to be, to believe in herself and have hope. I fear that as she matures, this bright encouragement will stop…as it did, in some regard, for me.

The bottom line: Alexandra, enjoy it while you can. It’s an illusion to some degree. It’s propelling you to that moment in time when you’re not cute anymore and your dreams stop mattering and you become a candidate for unkindness. Where is it that we lose our youthful protection, I wonder? Are we not that same child you wouldn’t dare frown at, once upon a time?

Quoth the lad called Tiny Tim, “God bless us everyone.”

Posted in Writing

“The Fools Who Love”

by Amanda DeLalla

Here’s to the fools who love.
To the red-nosed reindeer,
And finger-less glove.
To the dandelions called a weed,
Who may get what they want,
But not what they need.
Here’s to the fools who desire.
For a better world, some inner peace,
And more hearts afire.
Those who just want to know what’s true.
I don’t think they’re stupid to try;
Do you?
Here’s to the fools who dream.
Who believe that goodness
Is more alive than it seems.
The ones who trust in some greater plan,
Those who leave a legacy
Because they believe they can.
We reach and cry but will still be kind,
From oceans below to skies above.
All in a quest to simply find
Another one of the fools who loves.

la-la-land-new-poster