Looking For My Leopard
It wouldn't hurt you to learn some of the dance moves, either. But try not to let the little animated mouths on the mice at the end give you nightmares.
The manic mind of the minister - Auntie Mame Meets Cotton Mather. Blogging about Unitarian Universalism, UU Chrisitan spiritual practice, occasional cultural and political ravings, and the inner life of ministry. PeaceBang is the alter ego of a small town pastor serving an historic New England Unitarian Universalist congregation. Visit me also at http://www.beautytipsforministers.blogspot.com
Wait until the Southern Poverty Law Center hears about this.
(P.S. It's a joke! But don't they look like they're going to burn a cross on some minority sheep's lawn? Honestly, I don't know why they can't make their little outfits less menacing. It makes some of us nervous).
I saw the Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway classic "Carousel" at a local semi-professional community theatre tonight, and found out for myself why "Carousel" is the least-performed of that Rodgers & Hammerstein's great works.
It's just a mess, children.
The show straddles about three genres and tears a hamstring doing it. Also, "It Was a Real Nice Clambake" is, just as you suspected, one of the worst numbers ever written for the musical stage.
It was a real nice clambake.
We're mighty glad we came.
The vittels we et
were good, you bet.
The company was the same.
Your honor, I rest my case.
You've doubtless heard that the leading male character Billy Bigelow smacks his wife Julie Jordan around. Yea, he does. Or he hits her once, or something. Anyway, they have a miserable relationship and he kills himself and is given a chance to go back to earth for one day and make his karma right by doing something good for a change. He encounters his 15 year old daughter and has a little conversation with her, during which she becomes suspicious and agitated, and he smacks her. He disappears, poof, back to the heaven, and thus follows some really atrocious dialogue about how his smack felt "like a kiss," and as the now-invisible Billy (as a spirit, or an angel) watches, Julie explains to her daughter that yes, someone kin hit ya real hard, and jis' sometimes, it jis' don't hurt somehow.
At which point I looked over at M. and we made serious disapproval faces at each other. Like, "Oh no you DITINT just say that." And we sucked our teeth.
You know that Shirley Jones played Julie Jordan in the movie, right? Well, she's too old for that role now, so it was played by the gorgeous and talented Sarah Pfisterer. But for nostalgia's sake, and because we love her, Shirley Jones played ole Aunt Nettie who gets to wear aprons and spout homely bromides and hug people a lot, and sing "You'll Never Walk Around" with a serious Sensaround vibrato.
(why do these people sound like they're from Alabammy, when the play is set in Maine, ya'll?)
So Miss Shirley Jones played Aunt Nettie, a very supporting role, but she got extra tippy-top billing and this is how her THREE PAGE program bio begins:
"SHIRLEY JONES: AMERICA'S ULTIMATE LADY"
(big, huge Glamour Shot photo here)
"Shirley Jones' story is almost Hollywood legend, and it remains a living part of the lady that continues to work and grow and nurture her unique role as the embodiment of all that is right and wonderful about the American woman."
No, it really says that.
It really does.
And it goes on like that for three more pages, single space, tiny font.
This all leads me to want to say highly sarcastic and unkind things about Miss Jones, but I will withstand that temptation out of respect for cinema's original Julie Jordan ("Carousel"), Marian Paroo ("The Music Man"), Laurey ("Oklahoma"), and Mrs. Partridge.
The best thing by far about the show were the several ballets contained therein, one of which was danced with gorgeous agility by Miss Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck, giving us Agnes De Mille's original choreography. It occurred to me that it has been many decades since we've seen ballets in musical theatre pieces, and it was an unexpected joy and privilege to see DeMille's work presented with such perfect commitment, with absolutely nothing of 2005 about it. (It helped a lot that David Loveless put every single last person on that stage in totally perfect costumes and wigs, and don't think I didn't appreciate the details, Mr. Loveless. The sad, rolled up little pantaloons that Louise wore in her ballet were unbelievably poignant. You're a dream.)
So that was amazing and made me feel as though I was sitting in the theatre in the 1940's -- or -- wait, I have to look that up -- whenever "Carousel" originally played on the Great White Way.
[It was 1945 -- P.B.]
For now, this embodiment of all that is right and wonderful about the American woman is going to sleep.
I know there's a lot of important stuff happening in the world. I know that hurricanes have ravaged some, um, places. And that Karl Rove is a lying hounddog and that George Bush should be lighting matches under his shoes right this very minute. I know that other really important things are happening. I know that I speak English. And that I should be able to formulate a complete thought; even a fairly deep one. Maybe even something theological.
But I went off of coffee about three days ago -- or was it two? --- and my brain isn't working. I used to be this snappy person with quick opinions and big plans. And organizational skills. Also, I could drive and think at the same time.
But now it's really broiling out and I have a constant pounding headache (don't worry, I'm staying hydrated) and I have become a mouth breather. Because I don't have iced coffee, you see.
A kindly female colleague said to me today, in all sympathy, "Oh, it takes three to six months to get out of your system." I wanted to respond, "I'm sorry, you must have heard me wrong. It's coffee I've given up, not crack cocaine." That would have been funny. Except that I was too busy breathing through my slightly open mouth and trying to keep my eyes open to respond.
Three to six months!!?? That's not true, is it? Not even if you have a really lot of fat tissue? And especially if you only ever drank one big mug a day (with maybe a little tea in the afternoon, or a diet cola?)?
But I feel so much calmer and less jittery without the coffee I am going to continue to abstain and just wait and see if the brain comes back.
Nap. Nap time. Naps good.
As my sister pointed out, I already live in one of the most picturesque areas anyone could ask for. So why would I need to leave this tourist destination for another tourist destination?
Simple: In Canada, no one knows my name, lots of people don't even speak my language, and if I get caught in a bathing suit it's not going to do any damage to my reputation.
It's cooler in Canada, it's cheaper in Canada, it's cleaner in Canada, and my B&B has a HEATED POOL, which beats the icy Atlantic any time. But in case you miss frigid waters there's something called The Polar Club nearby that offers ice baths.
Sister of PeaceBang, her trusty hound, and PeaceBang are first going to St. Johnsbury, VT to make a pilgrimage to the DOG CHAPEL. I think I told you about it already, but we're really excited. We got reservations at a pet-friendly hotel 45 minutes away that looks so unintentionally retro and cute you just can't stand it. You can practically fall out of your bed and into a big lake. Gordon is going to love it.
I was beyond thrilled when I arrived in the Berkshires to see a Sondheim Pops concert at Tanglewood and learned that the Berkshire Theatre Festival had just started previews for "Equus." I mean, over-the-moon thrilled. I had never seen it before, and have been waiting for over 25 years to do so.
I first read "Equus" when I was in 6th or 7th grade, and I remember that it took my breath away. I was flattened when I finished; gasping like a grounded catfish. I could see it all in my mind's eye: the damaged boy Alan, the damaged psychiatrist Martin Dysart, and the horses of Alan's feverish obsession. I was fascinated by this story of a boy who had blinded six horses with a hoof pick: Why did he do it? How would they heal him? And what did "healing" mean in this context?
Even at that young age I had a sense of compassion for the fragile, deranged, horse-worshiping Alan, and an equal sense of compassion for his doctor, Martin Dysart, a character who goes to Greece for three weeks a year to study and encounter -- in a purely safe, tourist-approved manner -- the kind of ecstatic, fierce, pagan religious experience that Alan actually has with his equine god.
It was my first acquaintance with Dionysian religion and it left a very lasting impression. When I later reached the professional and vocational crisis moment that eventually led me to Divinity School, I leafed one afternoon through course catalogs for an MSW degree and remembered Dr. Martin Dysart. I remembered his agonies about divesting his patient of his rapturous religious ecstasy in the name of "normality," and I knew that I wasn't called to that kind of therapeutic work. I wanted to respect the crazy. I wanted to be able to hear about people's visions, obsessions, kinks, fantasies, spirit hauntings and other socially unacceptable realities without feeling the obligation to enlighten them out of their illusions/delusions.
(I had a dream around this time that just about scared the hair off my head and informed me that I was making absolutely the right choice.)
Life is enchanted. That enchantment can be a dangerous and violent thing. The gods are not sweetness and light. I'm not a minister of the god of sweetness and light. I'm not a preacher of it, either. I can't tell you how gratifying it was to sit in that theatre on Thursday afternoon feeling exactly as flattened by seeing "Equus" as I did first reading it as a girl. This is just why we need art in our lives; how the arts guide our souls.
The play is about so many things: psychiatry as an art form that both heals and destroys the psyche, the tendency in modern psychology to blame parents for all their children's sins and crimes, and the tremendous sexual power (eros) of some forms of religious devotion (let me just say that the "horse" costumes in this production -- all hot young guys in studded harnesses and platform "hooves"-- are sure to launch dozens of uncomfortable fantasies among the more staid Berkshire audience members. Heh-heh. When I met the lead horse-actor after the show (talented hottie Steve Wilson) I really wanted to say, "Hey Nugget. Can I pet you?" Gosh, he was that kind of handsome that makes you look at the ground and kick your toe in the dirt. We did talk about the show and stamp the ground and make horsey snorting noises together, though, and that was fun).
I'm still a little overwhelmed. What I really wanted to do after the curtain call was to stay in my seat and have a loud, wailing cry but that's not really the kind of instinct you want to indulge unless you want to get invited to the comfort station. So ever since late Thursday afternoon there has been a horse-sized lump in my throat and a big heavy debt of gratitude to playwright Peter Schaffer in my heart.
Read it, won't you? And if you can get out to see the production, so much the better. Randy Harrison of "Queer As Folk" fame makes a wonderfully vulnerable, beautiful Alan Strang, and John Curless and Pamela Payton-Wright are his tender, believable parents. Ms. Payton-Wright's second-act diatribe against Dr. Dysart is particularly raw and upsetting. Jill Michael took a terrible fall on her keester during Thursday's show and recovered with fair bravado as Nurse, and Tara Franklin makes the potentially tarty character Jill lovely, sweet and sympathetic. It did not escape my notice that she had a lovely, shiny "ponytail" of hair, which she took down to lovely effect in the second act. Speaking of which, Miss Franklin and Mr. Harrison deserve extra kudos for playing their long nude scene with a total lack of inhibition or stage tricks, and with refreshing honesty. Victor Slezak went up on a lot of dialogue and seems to have borrowed too many of his inflections directly from Sir Anthony Hopkins but nevertheless turned in a moving, consistent, impressive, well-developed and eventually loveable Dr. Dysart.
All praise to director Scott Schwartz for inventive but not overly-snazzy or distracting staging, and to Gus Someone (who sat next to me in the first row of the balcony taking notes Thursday afternoon) for his movement work with the "horses," whose masks were also gorgeous and effective. There were many complicated sound cues, all done well and well-designed. Lighting and sets and costumes, ditto.Personal to Mr. Victor Slezak: I really wasn't trying to stalk you. I simply wanted to shake your hand and personally thank you for bringing Dr. Dysart to life for me. I've played musical theatre roles that make Martin Dysart look like a nap in the green room, darling, and I ALWAYS make time for a few autographs if people are kind enough to want them, EVEN between matinees and evening performances. I didn't mean to frighten you by following you for a block; I actually thought you might stop and wait for the one minute it would have taken for me to catch up to you. Sorry you missed me. Your loss. I had many nice things to say.
Meanwhile, back on the Tom Cruise Monkey Ranch:
(I hate "The View" and those cackling harpies.
I loathe it.
It makes me into a temporary misogynist)
Right after 9/11, I went to see Jane Siberry in concert at a small venue outside of Philadelphia. I was, at that time, a major fan and living in Maryland.
When I arrived at the club I was shocked to see that the Celtic twist design Jane had chosen as the central symbol of new new album, "City," was the same design on a silver ring I just happened to have recently purchased and just happened to be wearing that night.
I thought it was a very cool case of synchronicity.
Between sets, I waited for Jane to emerge so I could say hello and give her my ring. I wanted her to have it.
I had met Jane a few years before, also in Philadelphia, where we had chatted for a few minutes and she had been lovely and friendly and had signed a poster for me. She remembered a letter I wrote her in 1998 or so, and remarked that she had wanted to write back but never got around to it.
This time, I showed her my ring and said, "I think it's really weird that I happened to wear this tonight -- I got it in Chartres, France recently -- I'd like you to have it."
Jane looked at me like I was trying to unload a stack of used beach chairs on her and replied, "Oh, I really couldn't. I'm trying not to collect any more THINGS." I stood awkwardly with my offering, stammered a few words of incoherent assent and walked away. I sat through her second set and never, to this day, realized how angry and disgusted I was. All I know is that her music went to the very bottom of my rotation pile and has remained there for years.
What an ungracious ingrate. If there was ever a time to just say "Thank you" and accept a gift, this was it. I had just driven 3 hours to see her play, and spent over $100 on tickets. All on a minister's salary. But the burden of a 3 oz. silver ring was just too much for the ethereal songstress. She's just so spiritchal.
After all of these years I realize that I couldn't agree with you more, Jane. I can't claim to be nearly as spiritual as you, of course, but I do see the danger in filling my life with extraneous THINGS. Therefore, I am divesting myself of some unnecessary material items: specifically, hundreds of dollars' worth of your recordings.
Anyone who wants the ring, just let me know. I'll send it right off.