Monday, March 31, 2008

The Music and the Mirror Pt 2

Okay, so you really shouldn't try to write a well thought out post so early in the morning. But I needed help falling asleep and writing really helped. But there is still a lot I wanted to say about A Chorus Line so I wanted to finish up this post.

So, I think one of the biggest reasons I have such a strong connection/reaction to the show is because it is like one of the only (if not the only) show that tells the story from the perspective of the dancer/performer. Theirs is a unique perspective because well, they're the ones that do all the performing. Especially the chorus. Sometimes, they're the ones who carry the numbers along, not the leads. Plus, there's always more of them right? But at the same time, they are definitely not the stars. They are regular people, just like the rest of us. Except they get paid to do what they truly love and they don't always make a lot doing it.

I mean, take for example the cast of the show. They had all just been mainly playing chorus parts in shows for most of their careers. And then suddenly Michael Bennett comes along and is like "I want to hear your story. Come to this group therapy session we're having and spill your guts about how you got to this point." And so the show was born. Some of those people are acting out their own life stories every night on that stage. It's like the uber catharsis. Until you get to the point where you've lived your story enough. But imagine what that's like. You get up on stage and tell your story to a willing audience. Or you tell someone else's story (that happens a few times in the show) but that person gets to hear their life come out of your mouth. It's really a beautiful process. And imagine the audience. They get to see what it really is to be a dancer in the chorus. How you got there, why you stay, how this became your life.

For these characters, dance was always an escape from their real life. It was sometimes their only safe place in the world. Or it was the solution to a fate worse than death (I can't help but think of Richie, the short black man who almost becomes a kindergarten teacher and the chorus singing "Shit Richie" behind him as he tells his story). I think the best example of this idea of escape is the song "At the Ballet" in which Sheila talks about her cheating father who never really put her or her mother first and Bebe talks about how her mother told her that she would never be conventionally pretty or beautiful and poor Maggie, who was born to save her parents' marriage and her dad left anyway. She dreams of a brave Indian chief who would dance her around the room. I think the lyrics that best sum up their feelings toward dance are:

"Up a steep and very narrow stairway,
To the voice like a metronome
Up a steep and very narrow stairway
It wasn't paradise, it wasn't paradise
But it was home."

I can definitely relate to that on a personal level. I mean, my mother was a dancer. I took my first steps at a dance studio. To me, dancing school was always the safest place in the world. When my dad wouldn't come home for a few days, I could go to dancing school and that wouldn't matter. When I had a fight with a friend, I could dance it out. When I was happy, I could celebrate. Birthdays, holidays and Fridays were always celebrated. My senior year of high school, I went back to dancing regularly after years and it felt like I had come home. All of my oldest friends were there and they were always my safe haven. When I was going through a lot of deeply personal shit, those were the girls I turned to so that I could forget. We would laugh and argue and dance occasionally and it was the perfect ending to what may wasn't always the perfect day or even the perfect week.

But if you're going to talk about escapism as a large theme in A Chorus Line, you have to talk about Cassie. Cassie is all about escapism. That is the whole premise of "The Music and the Mirror." The song opens:

"Give me somebody to dance for,
Give me somebody to show.
Let me wake up in the morning to find
I have somewhere exciting to go

To have something I can believe in
To have something to be
Use me...choose me."

As I'm writing this post, I'm talking to a friend who is also an A Chorus Line enthusiast as myself and we are dialogging about all of these key themes. I feel like she's said it more eloquently than I can put it so I'm paraphrasing almost exactly. But keep in mind, I share these opinions. If you think about it, this particular song is all about the passion. It is also about the need to be needed. Frankly, I feel that no one is more needy than performers. Maybe doctors but not really. Performers need to know that there is an audience for them to perform for. We like to feel needed. But that need is a driving force of the show. These dancers need this job. Not just for the money, but for themselves. Dance is their passion. They need to express themselves. Dance is the ultimate form of expression. I mean, Cassie states it pretty clearly.

"God, I'm a dancer,
A dancer dances!

Give me a job and you instantly get me involved
If you give me a job
Then the rest of the crap will get solved
Put me to work
You would think by now I'm allowed
To do you proud

Play me the music
Give me a chance to come through
All I ever needed
Was the music and the mirror
And the chance to dance..."

Okay, I think it got it all summed up. Passion. Cassie = dance = passion. Got it? Yes? Moving on to probably one of the best known songs from the show, "What I Did For Love." You know you know this song. I can sing it in my sleep. And I actually have. I had a dream once that I was in front of a crowd singing this. That's all I'm gonna say.

Well, the prompt in the play for this song is "If today were the day that you had to stop dancing, how would you feel?" I think though, that this song is incredibly relateable, no matter what the cue line is in real life. Everyone has a passion. I don't believe that there are passionless people in this world. I refuse to believe it. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to do their passion every day like a dancer or an actor is but let's just think about this for a second. There's a beautiful generality in this song that I don't think is in any other song. Except for maybe "I Hope I Get It." Funny how they're at the opposite ends of the show huh? But let's look at the opening of "What I Did For Love" shall we?

"Kiss today goodbye
The sweetness and the sorrow
Wish me luck, the same to you
But I can't regret
What I did for love..."

Let's examine this for a second. Kiss today goodbye. You can never go back to this moment. It has passed, it is over. The sweetness and the sorrow. Well, every passion has its highs and lows right? It can't always be sunshine and roses. But you take the good with the bad. Wish me luck, the same to you. Pretty self explanatory. But I can't regret what I did for love. You can't look back on the sacrifices you've made in the name of your passion. If I had to stop acting today, I wouldn't look back on it all as a waste, even though I never made a dime or got any recognition for what I've done. I've gotten to do my passion for a long time and I've loved every minute of it. You can't cry and you can't think negatively. It has to be a positive thought. As my friend so brilliantly put it, "its a beautiful song about saying goodbye to regret. which is such a weird thing to do but it happens. it's bittersweet."

But you know, with great power comes great responsibility. This song is almost too general. It can be taken extremely out of context. Not just to apply to other things beside dance, but to horribly obvious things. Like lost love like it is in the movie version of A Chorus Line (ps: don't see the movie. it is severly disspointing. the only plus is Cassie is played by Alyson Reed who plays Ms. Darbus in the High School Musical franchise. But don't see the movie. You'll thank me)

So, to sum up everything I think I've said quite eloquently here, A Chorus Line is about passion. Its about finding escape in your passion and it's about life beyond the stage. Please, I do urge all to utilize the clips I've added (there will be more at the end of this post) and find the music, see the show (not the movie) and love it as much as I do. I'm going to end this with the rest of the lyrics of "What I Did For Love."

"Look my eyes are dry
The gift was ours to borrow
Its as if we always knew
And I won't forget what I did for love
What I did for love

Gone, love is never gone
As we travel on
Love's what we'll remember

Kiss today goodbye
And point me toward tomorrow
We did what we had to do
Won't forget, can't regret
What I did for love...."

The original cast reflects on the show 15 years later
*this is from the Phil Donahue show in 1990. it had just been announced that the show was closing and at the time it was the longest running show in the history of Broadway. It's in 7 parts but please watch the whole thing. It's beautiful and enlightening.
The Cast performs "One" at the 1976 Tony Awards
*not the full song but you get the point. everyone needs to see this*

Sunday, March 30, 2008

All I Ever Needed Was the Music and the Mirror and the Chance....

Okay, so this is a very specific blog kids. Here's the back story...this week in my musical theatre performance class, we were working on a dance in addition to our group song. The dance is probably one of the most iconic musical numbers in the history of musical theatre, "One" from A Chorus Line. Original choreography, hats and all. I have always wanted to learn that number. Having the chance was fabulous. But it's not about my love for the dance; it's about the show.

I have recently taken quite an interest in the show A Chorus Line. I have yet to see the revival but I would like to over the summer. I never got to see the orignial 15 year run, seeing as how I wasn't alive for most of it. I was four when it closed. But anyway, last semester when I was in LA, my acting teacher at school, Kay Cole, started my curiosity with the show. You see dear friends, Kay played Maggie in the orignial Broadway production. My interest was peaked instantly. One because hell, it was a show I knew fairly well and two, I wanted to see what this little woman teaching me was like back when she was my age. So I did my investigating. Actually, the biggest clue came to me while I was still in LA. I was doing one of my favorite things...listen to the Music Choice channels between commerical breaks. Or maybe I was just listening because my roommate wasn't home. Anyway, I turned on the Showtunes station and oddly enough, they were playing a song from A Chorus Line. The song "At the Ballet". I looked at the performers and there, in bold letters (they may have been in caps) was the name I was secretly hoping to see...Kay Cole.

My attention immediately turned to the television. I was captivated in my desperation to hear her sing. For those who don't know, the song is a trio between Sheila (played in the original cast by Carole Bishop aka Kelly Bishop aka Emily Gilmore from that awesome tv show), Maggie and Bebe. And at this point, I didn't know which role Kay had played. But I knew her voice as soon as I heard it. It sounds fairly similar to her speaking voice, which is very distinct. I was so excited. I had found a clue. So I did some searches around the web and found out what part she played, like I've said. It was so exciting to me because I knew someone who was a part of Broadway history.

So, that in combination with just having learned this dance have lead to me extreme obsession with the show. Wikipedia and youtube have pretty much aided my obsession. Ah, the internet. Really though, this show is amazing. The music is memorable and brilliant, the dancing is phenomenal, but what gets me the most is the storyline and how it came about. Here's where I inserting direct text from Wiki because I don't want to paraphrase.

"The musical was derived from several taped workshop sessions with Broadway dancers, known as "gypsies," including eight who eventually appeared in the original cast. With nineteen main characters, it is set on the bare stage of a Broadway theatre during an audition for chorus line members of a musical. The show gives a glimpse into the personalities of the performers and the choreographer as they describe the events that have shaped their lives and their decisions to become dancers. During the workshop sessions, random characters would be chosen at the end for the chorus jobs, resulting in genuine surprise among the cast. Subsequent productions, however, have the same set of characters winning the slots.[1]"

There's also the plot synopsis. There are a bunch of dancers on stage in typical dance clothes singing "I Hope I Get It" (you know you know the song. sing as you wish). Let me state here that in high school me and my best friend tried to follow the opening choreography instructions to death. We're still not good over four years later but this summer we will be. Then 17 dancers are chosen by Zach (who is getting ready to be played on B'way in the revival by Mario Lopez...insert gag here. He's better than that part.) and as a way to get to know them, he starts to ask questions about them. So most of the show is a set of montages and songs including "Nothing (my first real experience with the show)", "Dance: Ten, Looks: Three", and "At the Ballet."

After all of this lamenting, the group goes offstage to learn another number, leaving chorus line veteran Cassie on the stage. She and Zach have a history; he has cast her as a soloist in pieces and they lived together. Cassie has just come back from a failed attempt at stardom and she needs a job. Zach tries to tell her that she is too good for the line, but she reminds him that she's a gypsy. And she really needs a job. She's a dancer, she loves , no wait...lives to dance. Thus comes the epic number "The Music and the Mirror" from where the title of this post comes. This is one performance I urge anyone reading this to check out on youtube. But you
must watch Donna McKechnie perform it. Hers is an inspired performance. A beautiful, gutwrenching number. And Ms. McKechnie blows that shit up frankly. There is a video of her doing the number on Broadway in 1988 *approx*, which would be about 13 years after she originated the role. Oh and she had been diagnosed with arthritis and told she wouldn't be able to dance again. Watch it and tell me that's a woman with arthritis.

So, the show continues. We see the cast learn the iconic number "One" where Zach and Cassie again clash about her being too good for the line and Zach tells some dancers they'll never get off the line. During a tap rehearsal, Paul, one of the dancers, falls and injures his foot. His career is OVER. That leads Zach to ask the dancers what they would do if they could no longer dance. That's when Diana steps forward and begins to sing "What I Did for Love" again, an incredibly iconic song. That leads us to finding out who gets chosen for the line. After that, the 19 original dancers come out dressed in very spangly gold outfits and perform the finale "One." As they perform, all traces of originality that we have seen for the past two hours is gone. They have become a real chorus line. Not one dancer is recognizeable from another.

So basically, this is just a really great show. There are parts that I want to dig deeper into as a reflection of my own life but alas, it is late and I need to rest. But here, I will include a list of links to look at. Please do check them out.

A Chorus Line wikipedia page
Donna McKechnie performs "The Music and the Mirror" in the original production
*the above performance isn't the best quality but its still good*
Donna McKechnie in 1989
The Cast performs "I Hope I Get It" at the 1976 Tony Awards
you can also check out clips of the Original Broadway cast recording on iTunes.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Well kids, since today is exactly two months from my graduation, I figured let's talk about that, shall we?

Frankly, I cannot believe that I'm graduating in two months. It felt like it was going to be a thousand years before it actually happened. I mean, this time four years ago, I didn't even know what school I was going to yet. I didn't find out/decide on Emerson until April I believe. And now, here I am, talking to my mom on the the phone at painstaking length about tickets and invitations and dinners and dresses. A-C-K. With the date pending, I can't help but think about the beginning and how far I've come (or rather, how much has changed). Of course, I had heard lots of things about college (most of them from tv. not many people went to college, let alone graduated in the four year time span.) I was excited, but that was mostly because I was going away. That meant that I was free to like do my own thing and make new friends and stuff.

just a side note: I have a terrible habit of going to a new school and pretty much getting all new friends. I don't mean to do it, but usually there is some reason. Namely, I move away and suck at keeping in touch with people. I'm trying to work on it though. But I'll explore this more deeply in my 'friend' post. Look out for it.

Okay, so college. It has been really fun actually. I mean, when I'm not doing homework or in class. Moreso in class because I suck at doing homework. Seriously. I suck. I have learned a lot and I have made some great friends. I've also gotten to have some awesome experiences. One of them was definitely going to LA. Actually, I think that was the most awesome experience of my life. EVER. Loved every minute of it. And the fact that I got to do it through school is even more exciting because I got to give LA a test drive. I will definitely be moving back there eventually. But we'll talk more about that in the 'Acting' post. See? I've been planning things here.

But now, things are almost over. I think I'm getting to the hardest part of it all really. Senioritis is kicking in and I'm running out of motivation. But I want to graduate with a 3.5 gpa. See my dilemma? I just have to keep pushing through. Righ after spring break is always hard. Speaking of spring break, you know what else bugs me about graduation? Lasts. Last Thanksgiving break, last Christmas break, last Spring Break. It's my last winter in Boston (actually, I'm not sad about that. This place sucks when it's cold). Or my last St. Patrick's Day here (and the first that I was actually old enough to drink). My last mid-terms (not that I had any). I think senior year is always marked with lasts. But it was different in high school. You knew you still had 4 more years of school. Sunday was my last Greyhound ride to school. Unless I go home next month for some reason. I just don't know what I'm going to do on my last day of classes. Hide? Cry? Have a party? Probably the latter, lol.

And then there's the whole post-graduation. I can't tell you how many times people have asked me what I'm going to do when I graduate. I'd say maybe once a week? Maybe a little more, a little less depending. But yeah. It's my least favorite question. For awhile, it seemed like all me and my friends could talk about what we're going to do after graduation. For future reference, I'm graduating, moving the hell out of Boston, going home to NYC, living with my parents rent free until I can't stand it and getting a job. I'll probably start auditioning in September. There. Don't ask me again or I will shoot you. I promise. Frankly one of my most important things is getting a job because the student loan people don't care about me going off to find myself. They're gonna want their money come November so I better have it ready for them. S-C-A-R-Y. But I will make it. I'm not really worried actually. Well I am, but I guess I have no choice but to be ready. It's coming and I can't stop it. Graduation is like a runaway train.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

First post

Well, let's see, what to talk about today? Hmm. how about gender class? It was quite interesting actually.

Okay, so to set up this post, here's the backstory on class. It's broken down into three sections: beauty pageants as a standard of femininity, professtional wrestling as a standard of masculinity, and hair. Before sporing break, we started talking about wrestling. We're still working on it. Which leads me back to where I started.

So, I know a little bit about professional wrestling. My little cousin watches it (or at least did the last time I saw him) and a friend's dad is a professional wrestler. Like wrestled for the WWE and such. I've seen an episode or two in my day and I have always thought it was kind of silly. I mean, I'm also thinking about what I knew in the past. When I was younger, the only wrestlers I knew were Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage (remember those slim jim commericals? yum). And then, there were all of those guys from when I was in intermediate school. The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker. Most of the guys in my class liked them (or at least the dorky ones did). Actually, in my 8th grade yearbook, the most popular quote as voted on by my class was "Do you smell what The Rock is cookin'?" (it was actually "no sex til you're 35, but they couldn't publish the word sex in an 8th grade yearbook, but I digress) So, I had an idea that this medium existed. I did not live under a rock. But I also didn't care about it.

The only person I knew who was really into it was my little cousin. And he really like(s/d) it. I mean, this kid went all out. He had the little action figures of the dudes, and a stage for them to wrestle on. Then, while he would watch it on tv, he'd play with the little action figures. I thought it was borderline obsession and a little crazy but who am I to judge? For fans, it seems that wrestling is a way of life. I also learned that watching this video in class today.

And now we've gotten way back to where I started. Class today. So we watching this video Wrestling With Manhood. It was made by a professor at UMass Amherst and it was actaully really interesting. Well, when it wasn't showing that absolutely grotesque clips of WWF/WWE wrestling. I was shocked/horrifed at some of the things that I saw. Not the violence of professional wrestling because we all know that most of the fighting is fake. It has to be. Most of those moves would instantly kill people at the most extreme. At the least, they would bleed. I was more disturbed by the "storylines" created for the characters/wrestlers. I mean, it was insane. There's the obvious question of manhood and what it means to be a man. Something that they deal with in an incredibly primative way if you ask me. Men are supposed to be the pinnacle of strength with these guys. Not necessarily a good provider/citizen, but a guy who will step up to the plate and kick another guy's ass. And we know the show has a predominately male audience so you can see where I'm going with this guys. These wrestlers are telling the men and boys who are watching that they're only a man if they fight. And kick ass, and potentially kill someone. I mean, you should hear some of the stuff these wrestlers say to each other. Of course it's scripted but someone has to be told to write it and what to write. So my question was, why would they want to perpetuate these stereotypes? And ancient ones at that.

One of the other things that interested/frightened me was the homophobic comments/homoerotic undertones on the show. If one wrestler wanted to emasculate another, he would say things to insinuate that the other was gay or less than manly by using words like "sissy" and "bitch". They use bitch a lot. It was shocking. Especially when they talked about the "gay" wrestling characters they had on the shows. One way of further emasculating them was to strip them of their clothes. It was incredible not just to see this but to see the reaction of the audience. They were screaming and cheering on the attackers. Then in video interviews, the fans were calling the gay characters "fag" and "homo" and stuff. This only continues to make gay bashing okay. Frankly, it sickens me.

And don't even get me started on what they say about/do to women. It is disgusting. In the world of professional wrestling, women are nothing more than objects for men to ridicule and abuse. One example of this disgusting practice was between Trish Stratus and Vince McMahon. Trish has done something to upset McMahon and so he decides to make her beg (literally beg) for his forgiveness. He makes her get down on her hands and knees and bark like a dog, before making her strip all of her clothes off. Let me ask you, how does this prove that she is sorry? And before that, he let his daughter, another character/wrestler Stephanie McMahon cover Trish in vomit and dunk her head in it. Then he proceeds to say that he did it because Trish is "trash" and a "slut". Sure, it's okay to violate a woman because she's "a slut." Fuck that. You're trash for even thinking that way Mr. McMahon. And don't get me started on Stephanie. Her "husband"/boyfriend at the time was Triple H. And he basically beat the shit out of her. Oh yes, let's make spousal abuse okay too while we're at it. There's nothing wrong with beating your wife. Not at all. Ahh, it makes me so angry.

Yes, I know that all of this is fake and it's made for entertainment purposes, but look what it's telling its audience. An audience that includes impressionable children. It is saying that all of this stuff, violence, homophobia, and abuse of women is okay because there are never any consequences. The kicker is that they compare it to soap operas. But if something like this happens on a soap opera, there are repercussions for the actions of the wrongdoers. And here, there aren't. Five minutes later, it's like nothing happened. Then one guy they interviewed told the interviewer that he let's his 4 year old daughter watch wrestling. He's like "this stuff happens, welcome to the real world." Are you kidding me?

Anyway, that was my first post. Feel free to leave comments good or bad. I won't be offended.