What’s So Attractive About the Rise and Fall?

Watching the ebb and flow of real women’s lives have made for some of theatre’s  most surprising success stories. So what is it about their tales that gives us that extra dose of catharsis we crave?

Evita. Follows a young, ambitious, and fame-hungry Argentinean, Eva Peron, on her quest to ascend the ranks of the country’s social and political circles. Seen as a savior by most and a terror by some. Dies at 33. Crazy successful musical.

Anna Nicole: The Opera. Takes a lens to the life of Anna Nicole Smith, the waitress who became a Playboy pin-up and billionaire’s wife, before dying penniless at 39. Features extreme language, drug abuse and sexual content in the style of author Richard Thomas’ explosive and exhibitionist approach to opera.

Amy Winehouse Musical. A musical play based on the singer’s life that  will be performed by the Danish Royal Theatre in 2013. Said to focus on “the enormous pressure a sensationalist public put on a young superstar when her problems began.”Found dead at 27 in her home. Does it have what it takes to make it on stage? Is it still too fresh in people’s minds?

Yes, their lives are inherently theatrical. Eva Peron was an actress-turned-politician.  Anna’s life was a soap opera come to life. Amy’s last few years read like a tragic fairy tale. But what else draws authors to write about them and audiences to come and witness a retelling?

Perhaps, as evidenced by the public’s unending attraction to trash TV (from the early days of Jerry Springer…to more recent staples such as Toddlers in Tiaras), people like to be able to feel better about their lives in comparison to the train wrecks of others.

There is also the “gone too soon” factor, as these ladies left in the peak of their popularity or soon thereafter. This leaves us to wonder “what if” and explore the causes that led to such short lives.

Of course, some individuals’ lives are just inherently interesting. Through strokes of luck or hard work, the bullet points from their lives read like a script rather than an obit. And so onto the stage they go, to get the chance to live again.

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3

As American as Apple Pie

Cars have seemingly always been a staple in good ol’ U.S. of A. – lynchpins of the American psyche and the ultimate symbols of  power, freedom and self-expression. And long before the dawn of the Mad Men era, woman were used as a way to sell them. Almost as common as the hood ornament adorning most of the classic models, the image of the female lounging on her car of choice is one that’s deeply entrenched in our culture. A woman sitting on, next-to, or even near a car became synonymous with sexuality, even when the photos were tame. The woman exercises her choice when she selects a car, just as she does when she picks out a man. Advertisers will market a car as “fast”, “exhilarating”, and “the ride of a lifetime,” and our minds need only hop a short distance to see that this language could apply to either a mate or a horsepower vehicle of choice.

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

15 Years of Pinups

The way we depict women in this country has plenty to do with how we portrayed them just a few decades ago. Gil Elvgren was one influential man who offered his own lens and captured the spirit of the “American girl.” His iconic paintings, ads, and illustrations made him one of the most important pin-up and glamour artists of the twentieth century.

I love how some of these are more blatant than others – some seems to scream “I would do anything to make you smile darling,” while others take a more subtle approach. But his illustrations are doubtlessly part of our consciousness even to this day. Each captures a particular notion of the mid-century American zeitgeist.

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All images: Gil Elvgren

If Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson Had a Best Friend

It might be this little gem of a show, Lizzie Borden, a rock musical about the most infamous trial of the 1800s that’s currently receiving a treatment at the Village Theatre’s Festival of New Musicals (where both Next to Normal and Million Dollar Quartet were developed before their successful Broadway stints).


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Belting ladies, Victorian Versace-inspired rock wear, and a whole lot a venom in this powerhouse of a show. And the entire show’s told only using four female characters! Lizzie, her sister Emma, the housemaid and the next door neighbor/possible secret love interest.  Here’s hoping that it makes the hop over to New York soon.