What Are You Afraid of…and Other Tough Questions

See Rock City and Other Destinations is up and running! This show investigates the intersection of expectations and reality, telling human stories across six distinct American landmarks. Posters with central ideas from each of the vignettes below:

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Travelogues: Cross-Country Traveling Through Good Ol’ Americana

As part of preparations for See Rock City and Other Destinations, a musical travelogue about people’s stories at various American destinations, we’re talking to real folks about their travel experiences around the U.S. Giving people a taste of others’ authentic, fun, and hard-to-believe stories one interview at a time.

Today, we’re talking to Lisa about her exploration from Alabama up to the frozen north via car.

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What inspired your cross country travels? How did you select the destinations you knew you had to see?

The cross country trip (Alabama to Montana) came up due to my former fiance being reassigned to Montana for his next 3 years in the Air Force. The destinations kind of just happened, depending on how tired we were, what time it was and how the weather was (we were driving in December with a cat and dog).

What was your favorite stop of the expedition? Why did this one stand out for you?

My favorite destinations were: Mount Rushmore, mostly because it’s amazing and we had fun there. We took goofy pictures. The second would be Sturgis, South Dakota. The people there were so amazingly kind and helpful. One woman even offered us a room in her home and gave my ex his food for free since he is in the service.

Most ridiculous thing that happened on your trip?

Here’s the ridiculousness: we got to Missouri and got stuck in an ice storm. We sat in one spot on the highway for three hours (seriously. We watched all of Green Zone on his Droid).

Was there any point on the trip when you had to rethink your original plan? 

Needless to say, sitting that long, you get antsy and eventually…you “gotta go”. Since there was ice all over and we were literally in the middle of the highway-cum-parking-lot, there wasn’t anywhere to go. My ex wound up using a Vitamin Water bottle and I used the dog’s water bowl! You do what you gotta do on the road!

If you would pick three words to describe the trip, what would they be?

Eye-opening, fun and unforgettable!

What do you do when hit with a case of wanderlust?

I start looking at magazines, blogs and other websites when wanderlust hits.

Where’s next on your travel itinerary?

Next trip is a road trip a few hours away for a half marathon I’m running, then the “big trip” is volunteering at Yosemite for 5 days in September!

All photos courtesy of Lisa. Thanks!

Deck the Halls with Whatever You Can Find

I have to admit I have a penchant for exhilarating set design – the kind that stops in your tracks, turns cliches and tropes on their heads and makes you instantly feel as though you’ve entered another world entirely. Whether that’s a multitude of “found objects” lining the walls or chairs suspended in shadowplay, the inventive possibilities are truly endless. Just take a look at the sampling below of sets that pinprick the imagination with their visual intrigue:Trumpery

Trumpery. James Kronzer and Jeremy W. Foil.

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Matilda the Musical. Rob Howell

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 Spring Awakening. Christine Jones.
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A Month in the Country. Todd Rosenthal.
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Travelogues: The Charm and Craziness of Coney Island

As part of preparations for See Rock City and Other Destinations, a musical travelogue about people’s stories at various American destinations, we’re talking to real folks about their travel experiences around the U.S. Giving people a taste of others’ authentic, fun, and hard-to-believe stories one interview at a time.

Today, we’re talking to nouveau-Brooklynite Abigail’s visits to the age-old wonderland of Coney Island.

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I’m Abigail. I’m a graduate student in creative writing and book publicist, and I moved from Wisconsin to Brooklyn in 2009 after taking a two-month trip around the country on Greyhound buses. I love travel and languages, and I studied in Spain and Japan as an undergrad. So far, the highlight of my travels has probably been learning how to ride an elephant in Chiang Mai, Thailand, then lying on the ground as it walked over me.

What inspired your move from Wisconsin to Brooklyn?

Brooklyn felt like where I needed to be. To quote Calvin & Hobbes, “They say the secret of success is being at the right place at the right time. But since you never know when the right time is going to be, I figure the trick is to find the right place, and wait around.”

 What was your first experience with Coney Island?

My first trip to Coney Island was with a few close friends who had all moved to the city after graduation. I loved seeing the glimpses of olden-day carnival Coney Island, and the experience of walking along the boardwalk eating a corn dog from Nathan’s. We spent the day taking turns lying on the beach and braving the water, which was still freezing because it was so early in the summer.

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 How did your trips there change over time? 

I think it’s more accurate to say that the feeling I get from visiting Coney Island and putting my feet in the ocean has stayed constant — even though the past few years of my life have involved a lot of flux. Since I’m from the Midwest, I wasn’t used to living close to an ocean — and in most of New York City, it’s strangely easy to forget how close you are to the water. I recently moved further south into Brooklyn to Bath Beach — just a few subway stops away from Coney Island — so I’m hoping I’ll begin to feel even more like it’s “mine” now that I can get there in less than 15 minutes on a bus or train.

 Strangest thing you ever saw at Coney?

I’m not sure if I could pick just one. Every year, Coney Island hosts the Mermaid Parade, which typically involves a lot of glitter and naked people. So, basically like liberal arts college. I’m kidding. There are so many amazing costumes: mermaids with octopus pasties, transformers, giant birds, circus performers on unicycles. I recommend Google-imaging “Mermaid Parade” if you’re not at work.

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Off-season photos of Coney look like a deserted wonderworld. Have you ever visited when no other tourists were around?

I have! I remember one unseasonably warm day in early March a few years back, and I decided it would be fun to go out to Coney Island by myself and take a walk along the beach, and maybe go for a swim. I got there and immediately realized that I had totally misjudged how cold it would be with the wind, but because I didn’t want to feel like I’d made the trip for nothing, I sat on the beach and read, even though it was freezing. There were maybe two other people on the beach, and it felt almost post-apocalyptic.

Do you think America will always have nostalgia for its beachside communities (Coney, Atlantic City, etc.)?

America loves nostalgia. I don’t think it’s necessarily specific for beach communities, though I think there is something special about places that simultaneously encompass two different worlds (one for the people that live there, and one for the tourists). The coast is also a place where fun and danger can easily meet, so maybe there’s a glamour factor in that, too.

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How does Coney Island play into the modern day notion of New York? (Escapism, a much needed retreat, danger zone, etc.)

I think it’s a place where there’s tremendous tension between the old and the new. This is true for a lot of New York, but it seems especially palpable on Coney Island.

Any other fascinating finds in NY that you would recommend folks visit if they’re near the city?

My favorite thing to recommend to visitors is the Staten Island Ferry. It’s free, you get to be on a boat, and you get a great view of the Statue of Liberty. My biggest recommendation, though, is to spend some time people-watching. New York has the best people-watching in the world.

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All photos courtesy of Abigail. Thanks!

A Life Underneath the City is Just as Colorful as One Above

New York City is renowned for its vibrancy, lightening-paced lifestyle, and constant flow of people on its streets. But its energy also surges into the subways below. One talented photo-blogger took the difficult lighting and less than prime conditions and captured the underbelly of the city over the course of a few years with a photo a day, rendering it beautiful through his lens.

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All images by Travis Ruse

Join Along for the Road Trip

“Americans have always been eager for travel, that being how they got to the New World in the first place.”
– Otto Friedrich

Thrilled to be working on See Rock City and Other Destinations, a musical travelogue that tells the stories of folks across the U. S. of A. This show is made up of a set of short vignettes, small American plays that attempt to answer the questions of what are we seeking and what holds us back from realizing the things we want. It’s told through story songs and feels akin to a particularly good episode of This American Life on NPR.

Today we’ve started our Meet Rock City series to allow folks to meet the cast and wanted to share the fun with all y’all.

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These folks are an incredibly talented bunch that are telling these honest stories in some inspiring ways. And while the show keeps up the pace with its humor, the takeaway seems to make us question our basic anxieties or fears – of connecting, of missing out, of seeking, of believing or no longer being able to believe.

Welcome to the journey. Glad to have you along for the ride.

In With the Old, Out Comes the New

As we’ve discussed before, creativity comes with a great deal of getting inspired, borrowing, and sometimes straight out stealing.

But who is to say that a derivative work cannot be equally as satisfying as the original? As long as the pieces are different enough, is it fair to say a certain one is better?

Take for instance the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera  The Mikado. The composers set the opera in Japan, far away from Britain, allowing them to satirize British politics more freely by disguising them as foreign notions.

Opera Australia’s 2011 production of The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan.

In 1939, the classic was adapted into a new piece entitled The Hot Mikado and performed with an all African-American cast. Primed with a lot more sass and a lot more swing, The Hot Mikado became a hit that is still performed to this day.

Now it’s been over 70 years since the original piece was given a facelift. Thus, theatres are still looking for ways to update the show and help it feel as novel and sexy as it was when The Hot Mikado first took the stage.

This recent production does just this by updating the 1940s American setting to a modern one that tips its hat to the original Mikado, complete with the “three little maids” in anime-style schoolgirl outfits. Up to you to decide which version you prefer – but I’d say there’s definitely room for both in the world of live performance.


Watermill Theatre’s production of The Hot Mikado in 2009

Map of Your Heart

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They say that it is written
That souls were made to intertwine.
And as we looped into each other’s lives,
I traced unseen paths in your palm
Running parallel to life lines,
love lines.
I let each one take up home in my thoughts,
step by step retreading the routes,
so that when the day came
that tepid fears made for muddled sight,
the direction home was always clear.

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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