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.

Bite-sized Wisdom: Margulies

This playwright’s pretty renowned for his ability to craft beautiful stories. Maybe here’s the reason why:

write

“Telling takes away the need to write. It relieves the pressure. And once that tension dissipates, so does the need to relieve it. First write it, then we’ll talk about it.”

– Donald Margulies

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What Goes Around Comes Around: Here We Go ‘Round the Song Cycle

Song cycle: a group of songs designed to be performed in a sequence as a single entity. As a rule, all of the songs are by the same composer and often use words from the same poet or lyricist.

The song cycle is one of my favorite mediums for witnessing a collection of musical work. A set of story songs is as satisfying as a tapas dinner. You get a taste of everything, you leave feeling like you learned something new. Without a libretto, the song cycle depends on the music to tie the show into a cohesive evening. This unity is often underlined by musical themes that weave their way back into the work.

But perhaps what’s most impressive is how lyrics are now thrust into the spotlight to stand on their own. There is no longer a text surrounding the work, or breaks between songs to help move one from the beginning of a story to its end. Lyrics must carry new weight.

Songs For A New World: abstract musical/theatrical song cycle with the central theme: “the moment of decision.”

Taste of what’s inside:

“God knows it’s easy to hide,
Easy to hide from the things that you feel 
And harder to blindly trust 
What you can’t understand 

God knows it’s easy to run,
Easy to run from the people you love 
And harder to stand and fight 
For the things you believe”
– I’d Give it All For You

Closer Than Ever:  A meditation on urban life through the lens of real individuals’ experiences with security, aging, mid-life crisis, second marriages, working couples, and unrequited love.

Taste of what’s inside:

“If I sing you are the music.
If I love you taught me how.
Every day your heart is beating
in the man that I am now.

If my ears are tuned to wander.
If when I reach the chords are there.
When there is joy in making music,
it’s a joy that we both share.”
– If I Sing

Myths and Hymns: Song cycle by Adam Guettel, based on Greek myth and lyrics found in an antique hymnal. It concerns the relationship of humans to gods, past and present.

Taste of what’s inside:

“I don’t know what I hunger for,
I don’t know why I feel the hunger more
And more with every passing day.
I don’t know from where the hunger springs,
But that it’s there and that it sings of someplace far away.”
– Saturn Returns

Even in these moments, do you notice the repetition? The words ground themselves: “God knows…”, “If…”, “I don’t know…”. These simple phrases reinforce the idea that a song does not need to be verbose to hit home. These song cycles are memorable because they feature honest human stories told simply, an utterly effective means of storytelling.

What’s your favorite way to hear a story?

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3

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

Things are Backwards but Beautiful in Hadestown

You know when you come across an album that shakes things up in the best possible way?
Anaïs Mitchell’s haunting and heartfelt Hadestown was just this kind of discovery.

This 2010 “folk opera” is Mitchell’s thoughtful retelling of the Eurydice and Orpheus myth, told through the lens of a post-apocalyptic distopia. Sad and beautiful like the lovers’ tale itself, the album is a highly-recommended gem.

Bite-sized Wisdom: Tharp

Whatever you’ve been through, whatever your story may be, know that giving up only hurts you. But believing? Oh, that’s where the good stuff happens friend.

“Optimism with some experience behind it is much more energizing than plain old experience with a certain degree of cynicism.”

– Twyla Tharp

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Spotted: The Artist Formerly Known as Le Petit Prince

One certain French novella is so prolific and so well-loved that the world continues to celebrate it. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Saint Ex’s Le Petit Prince is both the most read and most translated book in the French language, available in over 250 languages and dialects. Its story of love and truth is universal. And now a handful of artists have taken this classic tale to the streets. Take a look at how they have memorialized the little prince and his visit to Earth.

“I feel out of place like the Little Prince on Earth”, Montmartre, Paris, France

Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia

Havana, Cuba

Buenos Aires, Argentina

San José, Costa Rica

Lyon, France

“We only see clearly with our hearts. The essential is invisible to the eye…”, Canada

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

Fame’s No Easy Substitute For Love

And you, who knows me better than all, a touch is all it takes. 

Our communion has been treasure enough, but oh, to have this promise.

“But how, with all this light?”
“Can’t you see the constellations?”

Their eyes like our eyes, darling. 

He’s not the only one who waits for you.

Another season gone by. The crown you said you didn’t crave keeps you from us here. 

Words are fleeting, love. What’s left are memories.

Image Sources: 1, 2,34&5,  6, 7, 8
Visual storytelling for Rachel and Andrew Jackson à la Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Bite-sized Wisdom: Welles

Even before he found his way into film, this man lent his voice and vision to the theatrical stage. Here’s to a happy Friday the 13th and even better weekend.

“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

– Orson Welles

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