Bright Star

So, I didn’t post about it at the time, but the Tony Awards is my very favorite event of the year. As documented by my dear Gracie friend this year…I get very excited…

As those of you who follow the wonderful world of Broadway already know, Hamilton swept almost every category it was nominated in. If I’m remembering correctly (and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) the only notable categories they did not win were: Best Leading Actress in a Musical, which went to the phenomenal Cynthia Erivo for her role as Celie in The Color Purple. And Best Scenic Design of a Musical which went to the revival of She Loves Me. They took home 12 of the 16 they were nominated for.

There were other musicals that caught my eye though, specifically Bright Star, a gorgeous Bluegrass musical written by Steve Martin, and Edie Brickell.

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The story set mainly in the 1940s but, frequently flashing back to to the 1920s, focuses on publisher Alice; Who goes on a journey of self discovery while searching for her long lost child. We see her young years in Zebulon in the 20s, and her journey as an older woman in the 40s.

Alice was played by the magnificent Carmen Cusack, and her love interest was played by Paul Alexander Nolan.

Sadly, the show closed June 26th, after a short run on the Great White Way. However, there are plenty of performances online from the show that you can watch, and the album is available as well. It’s worth a listen.

So, because I haven’t posted a video in almost a month, and I love this musical, here’s If You Knew My Story, from Bright Star:

Love to all, As Always,

Mae

 

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20 Years of Jonathan Larson

20 years ago today, a masterpiece premiered on Broadway.

Jonathan Larson’s musical RENT was a revelation, it shook up the world in the same ways that Hamilton is taking the world by storm now. It spoke to the trials of the age in a way that the generation of the 90s’ could relate to. Set in the end of the AIDS epidemic of the 80s’ as the decade concludes, RENT follows a group of starving artists and performers as they attempt to make their way, love each other, and somehow, find a way to love themselves.  Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 2.53.57 PM

The main characters are hugely important, as are all main characters, but they are offset by a huge ensemble of talented individuals as well.

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The story of RENT is just as much about the ensemble, who play a variety of roles including the homeless, and the parents of various main characters, as it is about the city itself.  The set is sparse, depicting anything from Mark and Roger’s apartment, to the streets of NYC, to the performance space where Maureen hosts her protest. Any set changes are made by the cast carrying something onstage, and the band is onstage as well, hidden in the corner, rocking out through most of the show.

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RENT focuses mostly on these guys:

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Mark and Roger. Roger is a former band frontman and Guitarist. He’s been in withdrawal for a year preceding the events of the musical, “His girlfriend April left a note, saying ‘We’ve got AIDS’ before slitting her wrists in the bathroom..” He’s a recovered drug addict, and afraid of finding love again, in his mind, he’s just going to die anyway, so why connect?  Mark is a filmmaker, having decided to just film his friends and see what comes of it, most of the story is narrated by him, an outsider, who is inside the group.  The first lines of the musical are spoken by Mark (The quirky redhead on the left 🙂 )

“We begin on Christmas Eve with me, Mark, and my roommate, Roger. We
live in an industrial loft on the corner of 11th street and Avenue B, the top
floor of what was once a music publishing factory. Old rock ‘n’ roll posters
hang on the walls. They have Roger’s picture advertising gigs at CBGB’s and
the Pyramid Club. We have an illegal wood burning stove; its exhaust pipe
crawls up to a skylight. All of our electrical appliances are plugged into one
thick extension cord which snakes its way out a window. Outside, a small tent
city has sprung up in the lot next to our building. Inside, we are freezing
because we have no heat.”

This exposition is probably the largest block of spoken word in the musical. The rest of the story is told through song and a few scattered pieces of dialect. RENT is what is called a Rock Opera, and is a modern (in 1996) take on the classical opera “La Boheme”, which is a depiction of the bohemians living in Paris.

Mark and Roger are fighting with this guy:

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Benny, (played in the original cast by the devilishly handsome and charming Taye Diggs) who used to be their roommate. However, he abandoned the Bohemian life to, as Maureen so eloquently puts it during her protest later in the musical, “Live as a lapdog to a wealthy daughter of the revolution.” In reality, he married Allison Grey of the “Westport Greys,” but the picture of him as a lapdog is much funnier, and certainly accurate, as he ends up agreeing to his father-in-law’s every whim. He’s trying to realize the dream of a film/music production company in the lot next door to Mark and Roger’s building, but he has to suck up to Mr. Grey to make it happen. He threatens to evict the entire building if they don’t pay their rent, after promising Mark and Roger they could stay free of charge.

Also in the building is Mimi:

Mimi

Attractive, charismatic, sexy, a dancer at the Cat Scratch Club, and an addict. She lives just below Mark and Roger, she dated Benny for a while there after he and Allison got married…her moral compass isn’t always pointing in the right direction, but part of that is due to her constant searching for belonging, she’s a roamer, she longs for love, but has AIDS and is afraid like Roger to get too close to someone, at the same time, she gets far too close too quickly, resulting in disastrous remission when he has to break away. She’s a classic dual character, afraid and confidant all at the same time. She falls for Roger and spends most the musical trying hard to make him open up to her, when he finally does, she blows it, and everything spirals downhill.

Maureen and Joanne are characters with big personalities:

Maureen and Joanne

Maureen is Mark’s Ex-girlfriend, who broke up with him to be with Joanne, who is a lawyer and polar opposite to Maureen’s flamboyant performer personality. The two are constantly fighting, mostly about Maureen’s crazy living style and outrageous behavior. Joanne begins feeling like an outsider in the group, but eventually comes into her own and joins in their wild activities and little family.

Then there’s Collins and Angel:

Collins and Angel

Collins is a former professor at NYU,  I think that Mark’s introduction does him justice better than I ever could: “Enter Tom Collins, computer genius, teacher, vagabond anarchist, who ran naked through the Parthenon…” He shows up towards the beginning of the musical, he gets mugged on his way to Mark and Roger’s flat, and is picked up by Angel.

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Angel gets two pictures because of how important she is. Angel is a drag queen, one of the many flamboyant and out of this world characters floating around Alphabet City. She’s more than that though; Angel is the glue that holds the RENT family together. She is kind, and witty, and protective; she does everything in her power to keep them going, even though she has AIDS and is slowly dying. Angel is this depiction of God’s goodness on earth. Sure, she’s living a life full of sin by Biblical standards and teachings, but Jesus didn’t hang out with the “Holier Than Thou” crowd, Jesus was out there hanging with the Tax Collectors, Fishermen, and the sinners of the world. Angel does the same, this good person, kind, loving, and very real doesn’t choose to shun this small family, instead she comes in with the motto “Today for you, tomorrow for me.” Angel spends the musical putting everyone before herself…so much so, that without her, the family falls apart completely…

So, I’ve told you about the characters, and explained at least a little bit of the plot (probably too much actually) but I haven’t told you about the genius behind it. This guy:

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This is Jonathan Larson, he doesn’t look like much, but the guy was a genius. He saw these people on the streets, and he looked at “La Boheme” and he saw love, and grace, and kindness, and anger, and pain, and he infused it into a story that people of all generations can relate to. I love the phrase on the poster in the picture “A  work-in-progress of a rock opera by Jonathan Larson.” Larson never got to see RENT become a hit. The night before the show’s Broadway premiere, Larson died of an Aortic Aneurysm, so if you think about it, RENT which was still in it’s previews, was never a fully completed process. What you see when you watch the taped performance of the show, or see a live production, or if you were very lucky and saw it while it was still on Broadway, you are seeing Larson’s original vision; the unfinished and raw material that took a generation by storm.

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On the outside RENT looks like a gritty, bitter, drug and sex filled Broadway musical about people whining about money and how they’re dying. On the inside though, it’s so much more. It’s a depiction of love, and honor, and care for each other. It shows us how to live with freedom, to “Forget Regret” and live every day as if it is the last day that we’ll ever live. There really is “no day but today” for many people out there, but as exhausting as living in this mentality is, it’s also freeing.

Forget Regret has special meaning to me.

I regret a lot, be it little things, or bigger things, I’m the kind of person who will say something and regret it late at night as it plays out in my head. I lived for a long time, in shame, anger, and guilt, whether I had reason to or not. RENT helped draw me out of that. It pulled me up by the bootstraps and immersed me in a world where I was watching people deal with the exact same problem, in different aspects of their life. Then, they were handed a Christ figure ( in the literary sense of the term, I’m in no means implying that Jesus was a cross-dresser) and through relationship with Angel (by the way, name is an obvious plot point, her name is Angel, she’s basically the groups guardian angel…but I digress) they learn to love themselves and each other.

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I got this the day after I turned 18. The minute I could, I went to the tattoo parlor and got Jonathan Larson’s words permanently etched into my skin. This seems a bit drastic to some people, when I tell them it’s in reference to a musical I get some funny glances, but at the end of the day, it means something to me, and that’s all the matters. The numbers at the bottom spell “Angel” by the way, in case you were wondering. This for me is a constant reminder that your past, is your past, what you said or did yesterday, it doesn’t matter. It may effect, or shape who you are, but every encounter does. If you regret what you do, you’re regretting this wonderful, beautiful life that God gave you. So, when i look at my tattoo, on a daily basis, it reminds me, not only of a musical that I love, but of God’s unfailing forgiveness, his peace, and the joy that I have in knowing that he doesn’t regret me, so I shouldn’t regret myself.

So thank you Jonathan Larson, for 20 years of joy, tears, and music. Thank you for teaching me what it means to live fully. Thank you for writing something that inspires me to be better. Thank you, so much, you will not be forgotten, and your masterpiece will be a part of my heart forever.

Love to all, as always,

Mae

Stuff and things

I’m rubbish at math. And by rubbish I mean that most of the time it looks like this:

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I’m sure I’m not the ONLY person in the world who has trouble with math, but it does make some aspects of my life harder. For instance, I have to take the ACT this June. I’m good in all of the subjects except…you guessed it. Math. So I’m working with a tutor every Wednesday. My tutor is a Bio/Chem major who likes sports… While the Bio/Chem part comes in handy for math tutelage, we have very little in common. So, at the end of the session when we run to the cafe for a free coffee, we have nothing to talk about and sit there in awkward silence until one of us thinks of something to say… I’m a pretty social person, so this is hard for me. 

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On another note, today is dress rehearsal #2 for Les Mis. We made it all the way through the show last night! YAY! And most of us got to go home before midnight! This was completely unexpected. Anyway, seeing everyone in costume was great! Some of the scenes made a lot more sense when the costumes (and all of the props) were added. Tonight should go more smoothly and we should be done even sooner than last night. (Knock on wood)

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I’ve also begun to notice the extreme amount of superstition in the Theater community a lot more than I used to. For instance, people are constantly saying things, then knocking on the wood of the stage. (Hence the “Knock on wood” above) The other thing is that everyone believes that Civic is haunted. While I don’t believe in ghosts, I do believe in the power of suggestion. So when you’re constantly hearing that the Peanut Gallery, or the backstage  area, or the flies are haunted, being there late at night can cause you to start seeing things that aren’t there. I learned a long time ago not to let that kind of suggestion get to me. I have two extremes, either I won’t care about the stories and they won’t bother me. Or I’ll let them get into my head and send me into what I call THE SPIRAL OF DOOM!

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This usually ends with me crying in a corner and hiding from everyone…Why is a spiral of doom? Because I spiral out of control and end up in a hole I can’t climb out of by myself. I associate that with spirals, not sure why. I just do.

So. Yeah. Another fun adventure into my brain!

Love to all, As always,

Mae

Oh my goodness…

I. Am. Exhausted. I say that a lot, but I’ve never meant it as much as I do today. Part of this is because I’ve been working hard on Les Mis, and I just have to say: “Kudos to all the crew members out there who have made this job look effortless.” Because it’s not. I wasn’t expecting it to be, don’t get me wrong, I knew it was going to be hard work and I was looking forward to it! I still am, and am enjoying it immensely! I just haven’t been this tired maybe ever…It doesn’t help that last night I slept on and off…I don’t think I slept for more than half an hour maybe an hour in maybe a few segments…All well dreaming in between about scene changes.

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So my go to activity when I don’t have crew until later? Listen to K-pop.

I mean honestly, who can feel tired when listening to stuff like this:

And beside that…the guys are all GORGEOUS! Especially Taemin. He’s the guy with the red hair extensions. he starts singing around 0:53. 

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I mean honestly, he’s REALLY cute! And he’s only twenty! I mean seriously, twenty! He’s an amazing dancer and singer…only difficulty is that he lives in Korea, and also there’s the fact that according to his contract, he’s not allowed to date…but a girl can dream! Right?

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So I guess the point of this post is to say: Watching hot Korean guys dance is the best way to combat tiredness? Well maybe not, but a Monster Energy Drink later will help too. If I can convince my mother to let me get one…Which is WAY easier said than done…

Love to all, as always,

Mae

Do YOU Hear the People Sing?

I DO!

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This is the Grand Rapids Civic Theater. I mentioned it in my first post? About how it feels like a second home, even though I’ve only been in one show?

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Anyway, this past week I got an email from the stage manager at the Civic…I’m a crew member for Les Miserables! I am BEYOND excited! I’m ecstatic! This is a HUGE opportunity for me, because not only will I be working at a place and with people I adore, I’ll be learning things that will help me later in life! Theater is one of my greatest passions, it has been for a long time. I have always loved to sing, and, after my aunt brought Broadway shows into the house, I found something I loved in Musical Theater!

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So, for those of you who don’t know about Les Mis…

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Hugo

The original story was written by this guy. Victor Hugo. He also wrote the famous novel, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Anyway,  Les Miserables follows the story of a man, a convict named “Jean Val Jean,” and the people he encounters and changes through those encounters. Some of the main characters include: Fantine: A single mother and factory worker, who turns to prostitution to pay for her daughters’ living situation. Javert: The parole officer in charge of Val Jean’s case. He is cold, but we come to learn, not heartless.  Cosette: Fantine’s daughter, young, naive and in the care of the tricky Thenardiers. And on that note… Madame and Monseigneur Thenardier: Tricky and sometimes villainous innkeepers in a small French town, they are Cosette’s guardians and have a daughter of their own. Eponine: The Thenardiers’ daughter, she starts the story as a vain little girl, but progresses into an independent young woman, well, as much as possible in the 1800s…She’s in love with one of the leaders of the schoolboys revolution. Marius Pontmercy: One of the leaders of the revolution, he plans to fight at the barricade, but falls desperately in love with grown up Cosette. Eponine is in love with him, but he doesn’t seem to be interested in her as anything but a friend. (sad face…) I don’t think there are any other main characters that I need to explain…if you want to see the whole story play out, come see the musical!

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So, when I got my email about crewing, it said, and I quote: “Deck 4 (full time and costumed)” Next to my name! I’m REALLY excited about this because it means that I will get to wear a costume fitting with the rest of the characters…at least I think (and hope) that’s what it means… It also means that my schedule will be completely full for the next month and a half… (Don’t worry, I’ll still have time to post every day!) On Saturday, the 21st we go into what we in the “Biz” fondly call “Hell Week.” Hell week is really called Tech week. Tech week is the week before the show opens. It’s when the Tech Crew comes in for the first time and works with the actors. SO…not only will the Tech Crew be working with their assigned props, sets, lighting cues, flies ( like the things that drop from the stage and the people working the curtain, not little buzzy bugs…) , and for the dressers costumes and actors…the actors will be onstage WITH the set fully put together for the first time. Not only that, but after the first couple of days, the actors will be in costume and we will be running dress rehersals…I’m really excited, I kind of like Hell Week, It’s organized chaos…something I am good at!

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Anyway, it’s late here, and I need to go to bed. Sorry today’s post is late, but at least I got it in before Sunday afternoon. There will be another one tomorrow! Today? Tomorrow? Whatever, talk to you all soon!

Love to all, as always,

Mae