This is a blog primarily devoted to theatre, travel, and theatre while traveling. I’ve felt a little unsure about what to write after my summer of travel blogging (check it out here!). I have a job that I’m enjoying, and a commute I’m learning to not mind, and a wonderful family. It’s great, but I wondered whether people would want to read about my relatively mundane life. More on that later. You’ll also hear me gush about my Labor Day weekend (in New York!!) in a couple days, but for now I thought I’d leave you with some of my theatre-y faves.
My first love. Many theatre a theatre kid’s first love. If I had a genie, I would wish for a beautiful singing voice. I mean…uh…world peace? But even shower singers like me can feel like a Broadway diva when the right song hits. Take a hit like “And I am Telling You.” Girl, don’t even get me started. My favorites come in threes, and my top three musicals are Wicked (the first musical I memorized from beginning to end), Spring Awakening, and In The Heights (which makes me tear up every time). Close runner-ups are Into the Woods and Cabaret. Listening to musical scores brings me right back to a moment of discovery, of the astonishment, joy, or sadness I felt watching the show the first time. Musical theatre is criticized for being sheer spectacle, self-indulgent, and unrealistic. Come on now, even though people obviously don’t spontaneously burst into song (except in flash-mobs and apparently on the subway) musicals can be incredibly powerful and life changing. And even barring that, they sure are a hell of a lot of fun.
I have a confession. I don’t watch or read nearly enough plays. I love making theatre–writing, producing, acting, stage-managing–but often something gets lost in translation on me when I see straight plays. Either I’m undereducated in the art of appreciating straight theatre, or I’m immensely discerning. I’ll go with the latter. However, there are a few playwrights who are almost always my cup of tea. Shakespeare. Tennesse Williams. August Wilson. Suzan Lori Parks. Samuel Beckett. Adrienne Kennedy. Apparently I like classics and classics with a twist. There are lots of playwrights that I think would become favorites if I read more of their work like Lynn Nottage, Dael Orlandersmith, Katori Hall, and David Henry Hwang. There are countless plays I’m intending to read. I just need to get down to it! My favorite three plays are Hamlet, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Seven Guitars. To be updated soon and often.
As for individual performances, there are several that come to mind that completely took my whole life by storm, in a good way. For now, I’ll give you just three.
The first is Chazz Palminteri’s one man show “A Bronx Tale.” He came to San Francisco on a tour years ago, when I was in high school. In the show, based on stories from his childhood in the Bronx, he plays more than a dozen characters deftly, honestly, hilariously. It was the first time I ever considered one-man shows as a thing that people actually did, and did beautifully. Who knew I would later go on to do a fifteen-minute solo performance for my senior thesis?
Another performance that changed me was Angela Basset in “The Mountaintop” with Samuel L. Jackson. The play is beautiful, imagining Martin Luther King Jr.’s final night alive. Angela was exquisite. She is a goddess among women, gorgeous, seemingly un-aging, and a simply flawless actress. Her performance was so filled with specificity and nuance, right down to her character’s endearingly goofy laugh. The thing acting teachers try to drill into their students’ minds is that the character has a life as rich as a real person, and Angela realized that. I will continue striving for that truth as long as I’m creating theatre.
The third performance was that of Cicely Tyson in “Trip to Bountiful.” Graceful, emotionally vulnerable, and relentlessly determined, she reminded me of my own grandmother (love you Granny!) Watching a legend at work is one of the greatest joys of living in New York. If you live there, or in another major metro, never take that for granted.
The thing about great performances is that there aren’t quite words to describe them. Unlike in film, you can never have that moment again (even if you do record it, it’s never quite the same). Theatre is singular. Theatre is magic.
As my boarding time neared, I felt downright giddy to spend time with my best friends in my favorite city in the world. But writing this makes me remember can’t let myself become beholden to travel and excitement. There is beauty in the mundane, something performative about every daily act, little discoveries hidden within habit. So although I will continue to explore the world and see great theatre, I plan on uncovering the joy of routine. Isn’t our job as writers to describe the world to ourselves? People don’t read great non-fiction because they don’t know what the world is like; they want to know how someone else sees it. In addition to blogging consistently (Wednesdays and Sundays for my primary posts) I intend to do true writer’s work. I want to give you my world, how I see it.