Party Like Gatsby

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——”

What better way to celebrate good ol’ fashioned nostalgia, a glittering golden dream of America, than with a Great Gatsby-inspired fete?

A few glimpses from the pre-party prep:

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Sitting across from the “Old Money” Mints

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Gatsby-esque wisdom

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On quotable pages

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Timeless suit. Properly timed cheese plate.

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Found the green light.

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Tis The Season of Gatsby

With Luhrmann’s adaptation about to hit the silver screen, there’s no better time to revisit how others have retold Fitzgerald’s classic American tale. At once a novella about the power of hope and a prophetic story of the end of an era, the The Great Gatsby is still considered one of the best books in the canon of Western literature.

The book exploded off the page in Elevator Repair Service’s marathon retelling. A man in an office sits down, begins reading the book, and 8 hours later (a few intermissions and dinner break included) you emerge from the theatre having utterly steeped yourself in the text. All 180 pages of it.

Take a glimpse of the piece through the eyes of the narrator, Nick Carraway, as Gatsby’s lavish parties transform a dull office setting. The actor who plays Nick, Scott Shepherd, has memorized all 49,000 words of the text.

How to Be Happy – By Stephen Fry

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“Certainly the most destructive vice if you like, that a person can have. More than pride, which is supposedly the number one of the cardinal sins – is self pity. Self pity is the worst possible emotion anyone can have. And the most destructive. It is, to slightly paraphrase what Wilde said about hatred, and I think actually hatred’s a subset of self pity and not the other way around – ‘It destroys everything around it, except itself .’

Self pity will destroy relationships, it’ll destroy anything that’s good, it will fulfill all the prophecies it makes and leave only itself. And it’s so simple to imagine that one is hard done by, and that things are unfair, and that one is underappreciated, and that if only one had had a chance at this, only one had had a chance at that, things would have gone better, you would be happier if only this, that one is unlucky. All those things. And some of them may well even be true. But, to pity oneself as a result of them is to do oneself an enormous disservice.

I think it’s one of things we find unattractive about the american culture, a culture which I find mostly, extremely attractive, and I like americans and I love being in america. But, just occasionally there will be some example of the absolutely ravening self pity that they are capable of, and you see it in their talk shows. It’s an appalling spectacle, and it’s so self destructive. I almost once wanted to publish a self help book saying ‘How To Be Happy by Stephen Fry : Guaranteed success’. And people buy this huge book and it’s all blank pages, and the first page would just say – ‘ Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself – And you will be happy ‘. Use the rest of the book to write down your interesting thoughts and drawings, and that’s what the book would be, and it would be true. And it sounds like ‘Oh that’s so simple’, because it’s not simple to stop feeling sorry for yourself, it’s bloody hard. Because we do feel sorry for ourselves, it’s what Genesis is all about.”

― Stephen Fry

Love this simple and effective take on the ease of happiness. We often get caught up in thinking that 10 to 2,000 other things, distant objects in the future, are the keys to our happiness, when in fact the simple key is “ease.” When presented with less than ideal circumstances, we can choose to resist or struggle, or opt to accept them without the need to wallow in self-pity. By releasing the need to control the outcome of every situation, we allow ourselves to respond to each moment as it comes. And that’s a heck of a lot easier than trying to master the art of feeling sorry for oneself.

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“America” Means Different Things to Different People

“I always liked the idea that America is a big facade. We are all insects crawling across on the shiny hood of a Cadillac. We’re all looking at the wrapping. But we won’t tear the wrapping to see what lies beneath.”
-Tom Waits

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Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: A New Look, New Category and New Series!

Thoughts on Theatre went in for a touch up last night and now the blog is sporting a whole new look!

In addition to a new streamlined look, there is also a new category to present: Travelogues. As more and more content popped up in the realm of travel, it seems appropriate to give it a home. This is especially true as we will feature more travel stories in the future as we delve more into the world of See Rock City & Other Destinations.

The musical takes place in the following six locales:

1. Rock City 2. Area 51 3. Glacier Bay 4. Alamo 5. Coney Island 6. Niagara Falls

And I’m looking for insight from all of you! Have you traveled to one of these destinations? Do you have wild story about your time there and pictures to match?

I will be doing an interview series in the next few months on these places as well as other notable American landmarks (Route 66! Grand Canyon! Yellowstone!).

If you would like to share your memories and be a part of the fun drop me a line at:
colorandlighttheatre [at] gmail [dot] com with the subject line See Rock City Interview.

 So that’s the update! Thanks everyone for all of your support, thoughtful comments, and wonderful questions thus far. Here’s to making more memories together!

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

To Know Where You’re Going, It Helps to Know Where You’ve Been

The recently published Presidential Campaign Posters: Two Hundred Years of Election Art highlights the imagery that has helped to shape American political opinion for the past couple hundred years.

1856: James Buchanan (Democrat) v. James Fremont (Republican) v. Millard Fillmore (American)

1864: Abraham Lincoln (Republican) v. George B. McClellan (Democrat)

1872: Ulysses S. Grant (Republican) v. Horace Greeley (Liberal Republican)


1924: Calvin Coolidge (Republican) v. John Davis (Democrat) v. Robert La Follette (Progressive)

1928: Herbert Hoover (Republican) v. Al Smith (Democrat)


1968: Richard M. Nixon (Republican) v. Hubert Humphrey (Democrat) v. George Wallace (Independent)

1972: Richard M. Nixon (Republican) v. George McGovern (Democrat)

1980: Ronald Reagan (Republican) v. Jimmy Carter (Democrat) v. John Anderson (Independent)

2008: Barack Obama (Democrat) v. John McCain (Republican)

NPR media reporter Brooke Gladstone lends her voice to the book’s introduction and offers “Political art is nothing less than an illustration of the skirmishes and stalemates that created and continue to animate the American experiment. As you look at each poster and read about each campaign, it becomes increasingly clear that the tug of war over taxes and trade, the distribution of wealth and power, and the role of government itself, will never end.”

All old will again be made new. And while our war of ideologies may continue to define the American way for the foreseeable future, it does not mean that we should dismiss efforts to make this country better - no matter how many years that endeavor takes. Because growth is a constant process, not one we can absolve ourselves from as we try to stall in neutral.

May we embrace the changes that lay ahead, and may we continue to learn from past stumblings.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery – Too Little, Too Late?

Beautiful, aren’t you?
So glad that we could finally inspire you.

Image Sources: 1, 23, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Ohmy, Did You Hear?

Or, How Ladies’ Gossip Tore Apart the White House

Once upon a time (roughly 1816 or so),  a 17-year old Peggy married a man named John Bowie Timberlake, a 39-year-old former navy purser.  Timberlake tried to open a store, Peggy gave birth to a little boy – but within six months, both ventures were struggling. The store went under and the couple lost their young child.

Two years later, the Timberlakes met the widowed senator John Eaton, and all quickly became good friends. When Timberlake decided he had to return to the navy to work off his debt,  Peggy started helping her father with his tavern, a role she’d spent many of her girlish days filling when the bar needed an extra pair of hands.

And this is the time when Peggy gained her reputation for being “too bold,” which translates to “a woman that speaks her mind.” She openly discussed politics and expressed her opinion frankly, and Andrew Jackson, who often stayed at the tavern when Congress was in session, became quite taken with her.  Always a fan of strong women, he wrote to his wife Rachel about her constantly.

It’s a little known fact that Jackson totally had a thing for brunettes.

Timberlake was only able to return home for short, occasional visits. When he was forced to leave on a four-year sea voyage, he wrote his wife telling her that if anything happened to him, “there is one man to whose hands I should be willing to entrust you, and that is John H. Eaton, the noblest work of God, an honest man.” He died at sea suffering from anxiety and depression, but gossip spread that Timberlake had killed himself while in a drunken stupor, supposedly unable to bear his wife’s infidelity with his friend, John Eaton.

No one is sure whether the rumors were true. Peggy and Eaton had developed feelings for each other, but did not marry after the news of her husband’s death. At least not right away that is. In 1829, less than a year after Timberlake passed, Peggy and John Eaton tied the knot.

And America went berserk. This went against all societal customs, mainly that of women waiting one year before remarrying. But life was short back then – when 30 was “over the hill.”

So the ladies began to shun. It began with Vice President Calhoun’s wife, Floride, who (with nose firmly turned-up) refused to pay the couple a visit after their honeymoon. While men ran the country, the women reigned over societal norms. The Cabinet Wives’ of the 1800s would have put the Real Housewives on Bravo to shame with their cattiness, expert snubbing, and endless gossip.

When Peggy complained to her buddy Andrew Jackson about the incessant gossip, he replied “I had rather have live vermin on my back than the tongue of one of these Washington women on my reputation.”

Jackson had always believed that it was his duty to protect all women, and the years of defending his beloved Rachel had made him intolerant of slanders against any woman. So, fighting man that he was, he set out to make things right. He would literally force her into social circles and demand the other women to be kind to Peggy. Years later, the scandal still followed her. Because of her sullied reputation, her husband was not able to regain his Senate seat. And while they stayed in the political scene for a few more years, the couple ultimately retired in 1840.

When Jackson died five years later, he was buried beside his Rachel at their home the Hermitage. In 1856, John Henry Eaton followed Jackson, leaving Peggy a widow once again.

But even then, her scandals were not at their end. In 1859, a 59-year old Peggy married the 19-year-old dancing master of her grandchildren, Antonio Buchignani. This Italian lover got her ostracized once again, but reporters and writers still came to her for the juicy details about her life. A perfect example of not letting others get in the way of your happiness and perhaps more importantly, that you’re never too old for love.

Still got it.

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Blow Out the Candles, America

Wishing you all an awesome America-filled independence day.

And if you’re wondering what all the fuss is about this day any way, revisit the star-studded 1776 for a little musical-filled history lesson. This passionate tirade from Adams is one of my favorites:

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You Havin’ A Laugh: Can a 200 Year Old Joke Still Hold Up Today?

They say a good joke is timeless. Does the adage apply to those clever quips thrown around at Jackson during his chaos-riddled presidency? The bull-headed, quick-to-anger, and strongly opinionated leader was criticized from all angles about his inability to just calm down and follow the rules. But that wasn’t AJ’s style.

The political discourse at the time went a little something like this:

“Let the National Bank alone Jackson!”

Nope, going to challenge it until its a crippled and gutted version of what it once was.

“Stop hiring all of your friends to serve as your Cabinet!”

Haha good one. These positions are simple enough that a “common” man can do it. And if they start screwing up, I’ll throw them out.

“You should probably stop acting like a supreme leader whose word is law. Ever heard of justice?”

If you don’t like how I run things, you can get up and get out. I’ve made this land open to the American people by relocating thousands of others, and this is thanks I get?

Let’s hope that Andrew had some sense of humor about himself and could appreciate the attitudes of those that attempted to laugh at the situation. These old-school political cartoons of Jackson are intrinsically charming. The flood of text presented to help get the joke across? We’re a bit less wordy nowadays. But nonetheless, they give a clear idea of some of the impressions of the president during his reign..I mean, presidential term.

Shows how Jackson’ critics viewed the man’s enthusiasm for using his powers as president. Many sought to limit his influence by pushing for states’ ability to reject federal decisions.

Jackson vs. the National Bank. Andrew Jackson opposed the Second Bank of the U.S. because he believed the bank concentrated too much power in the hands of a few wealthy men in the Northeast.

Jackson, somewhat blinded to the situation (spectacles up over his head), as his Kitchen Cabinet, here depicted as the rats (John H. Eaton, John Branch, Martin Van Buren, and Samuel D. Ingham), abandons him. His foot is planted firmly on the tail of the Van Buren rat. 

Andrew Jackson is roasted over the fires of “Public Opinion” by Justice herself. He was under pressure for the controversy surrounding his removal of federal deposits from the Bank of the United States. Note the pig leg.

Image Source: Library of Congress

America, America

Lookin’ good, America. I can only hope that when I’m 236 years old, I can still look this feisty. Take a glance at how certain trend setters are adding a dash of patriotism into their lineup to give a creative nod to the ol’ Stars and Stripes.

 

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Populism, Yea Yea

“Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.”

- Andrew Jackson

It’s official: our production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson will be hitting the stage this summer. As you guys know, I love it when history is made even more accessible through a good musical, and this show is no exception. Rock heavy and ridiculous, this tongue-in-cheek jaunt through the early 19th century tells the story of the U.S.’s seventh president in an entirely new light.

Why a faux-emo musical about an early American president? Because in case you haven’t heard, this guy was absolutely insane. In perhaps his most ridiculous display of badassery, when a man challenged him to a duel and misfired both of his pistols, Jackson sauntered over and beat the dude senseless with his cane. This valiant display of lunacy earned him the nickname Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson since the (otherwise harmless) cane was carved of hickory.

And because the creatives behind this show aren’t the only ones who understood what a crazy rockstar A.J. was:

Image Sources: Playbill.com and The Smithsonian

Modern Day Pocahontas

What happens when the fashion world takes hold of the past and gives it its own modern spin? A few glimpses can be found below – a cultural identity pared down to a few key pieces.

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

If You Don’t Like Gay Marriage, Don’t Get Gay Married

“And that’s what we did, we put fear and prejudice on trial.”

-”8″: Dustin Lance Black’s Play about the Fight for Marriage Equality

This weekend marked the premiere of “8,” a play that took a magnifying glass to the infamous Proposition that shook California just a few years ago. The story revolves around the court case to overturn Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment that eliminated the rights of same-sex couples to marry in the state of California. Spolier alert: If you’ve been keeping up with politics, you’ll know how this show concludes. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take the time to see George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Martin Sheen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jane Lynch, Kevin Bacon and other fantastically talented individuals in action.

It also doesn’t mean that we can stop caring about the issue. A theatrical piece bringing some of the gritty details to life is wonderful, but it still doesn’t change the fact that the U.S. has a long way to go on the issue of marriage equality. The fact that only six states recognize and offer same-sex marriage licenses and that there is no federal recognition of same-sex marriages is a problem tantamount to those issues at the heart of the civil rights movement. It creates a strata of second-class citizens in a nation that purports itself to be the world leader. Leader on plenty of fronts, sure – but not a leader in tolerance.

The fact is, other nations are miles ahead of us on recognizing that allowing gay marriage doesn’t lead to a country’s downfall. Or the apocalypse. Or donkey-human relations. It leads to a culture of  compassion and understanding. Oh, the horror!

Let’s grow up, America. Let’s stop standing idly by as kids get bullied for being gay, stop using the phrase “that’s so gay” as a way to signal something stupid or off-color, and stop making designations between individuals based on who they love.

Love is perhaps the single most important thing that we have to share. It costs nothing, and we as humans are endowed with an unlimited supply.  So let’s give some away, shall we?

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If you haven’t had the chance to watch the play yet, full show is available here.