"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
---Walter Elias Disney

Monday, February 24, 2014

Giants In The Sky

There are Giants in the sky
There are big, tall, terrible, awesome, scary, wonderful 
Giants in the sky

So sings Jack in Stephen Sondeim's Into The Woods. Jack makes a trip up the beanstalk and glimpses a world that changes the way he sees the old, mundane world to which he returns. His experience has changed his outlook, he now sees somehow more even when looking at the same things. I can identify with that.

My experience in theatre has been that sort of revelation. I think it's been more noticeable and perhaps pronounced because I wasn't brought up around the performing arts (except as an audience member). I sort of climbed that beanstalk all at once and took in a new world and it's changed the way I look at things when I go back to being that simple audience member.

This past weekend, the lovely Lisa and I returned to the wonderful Durham Performing Arts Center and saw Book of Mormon. The show is outstanding and hilarious and just so, so very WRONG. We loved it. I would have loved it 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago, I'm sure I would have. But I saw it through different eyes than I would have then.

The first musical number features about ten Mormon missionaries standing on risers and each ringing an imaginary doorbell. The audience loved it, they laughed at the first finger poking the air and bringing forth a "Ding-Dong." It was a great effect, and an obvious one for working Mormon door-to-door evangelism into the show. But I watched it with a sort of heart in throat feeling, silently cheering on the sound tech who was hitting that button at just the right time to make the doorbell gag work. He did great, only one was a bit late, but I know THAT'S the thing he'll remember about that scene in that show, the one thing that wasn't perfect. And I also appreciate how hard getting that timing down can be. The boy had to do the exact same effect when he was helping out with Tuesdays With Morrie at our local strip mall theater. He nailed it, and it impressed the actors enough that they brought it up to me at intermission. Tiny things, things that may last a second at most, matter. I never would have given the doorbells a second thought five years ago.

Later in the show is a song that is in part about dysentery. Yep. It's actually got really catchy lyrics, but they are less then safe for work. Anyhow, the dancers during this rather educational segment use a long roll of cloth and sticks with different colored tassels to represent a river and, ahem, several bodily fluids. It's set to a tribal beat and moves along faster and faster as the song (and the unfortunate ailment) progresses. Watching this, I couldn't help but picture the poor choreographer on the first day of learning this bit. Sure they are professional actors, but come on, it's a hilarious song and the movements (hee hee) are not only hilarious as well, but physically tricky. I'm sitting there picturing our crew trying to pick this up and laughing that much harder because of it.

Those are just a couple examples, I could go on and on, but I don't want to spoil the show for anyone who hasn't seen it. My point is that our experiences aren't only about the joy and learning we receive while they are happening. The real magic of life-long learning, of every once in a while just climbing that beanstalk just because it's there, is a richer life --  happily ever after.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day In Pooh Sticks Land

I know, I know, it's somewhere between cliched and sickening to say that for Lisa and I Valentine's Day has never been much of a big deal because we celebrate our love everyday, but it's also true. We're that gross couple kissing in Walmart. Don't judge. She's just that kissable. All the time. And I have no filter. Or much self control. Don't feel alone if you see us and are made a bit uncomfortable by the blatant displays, we regularly horrify and gross out our teenager. But it works for us and we're happy so, deal with it.

This year as Valentine's Day approached we decided that our gifts to each other would be brand new Blu-rays of two classic Disney animated features, Jungle Book (because it was just re-released on Blu-ray a couple days ago) and Robin Hood. Romantic, huh?
We'll also go out to dinner at a little Italian place with a Irish pub inside near here, but we're bringing the boy along because, well, we love him, too.

The Jungle Book was Lisa's idea, really. I was seeing commercials for it and saying I was going to buy it the day it was released. It's one of my top Disney favorites. I'll give it its own post after we crack it open and check out the shiny new version. Anyhow, Lisa suggested that maybe I wait because, ahem, someone might want to get it for me for Valentine's Day. While she was looking into pre-ordering it on Amazon (where strangely it isn't going to be available until March) she ran across the Blu-ray of Robin Hood and asked if we would just like to get both for each other and be done with it. That sounded like a fine idea to me and so there we go, V-Day covered!

But it's really not so un-romantical as all that. Lisa knows how much I love Disney's Robin Hood and she has come to see the two of us in its main characters. Lisa fancies herself a princess and I fancy myself a bit of a rogue. Silly, maybe, to you reading this, but we buy it and love it. Lisa IS a bit like Maid Marion, maybe more like her than like any other Disney Princess. Maid Marion does a lot of giggling in this movie. She goes through the whole thing, even the scary parts, with a sense of humor based in the trust that her anti-hero from the woods will always be there for her. She isn't the sort to just play damsel in distress, though, and hope for rescue. Nope, Marion joyfully fights her way through the bad guys, giggling all the way, and helps Robin as much as he helps her. They are a team. Like us.

Like Robin, I'm not much for authority and I tend to jump in without much testing of any waters. I've always been the sort to do what I want no matter what I'm told. Sometimes, this works out great, often it gets me in trouble, like it does Robin. But no matter what happens, my Lisa is there beside me. Whether it's something big like picking up and moving 500 miles away to a place we've never seen before, or small like waking up and deciding we just must see Charleston that day, or just plain weird like jumping with both feet into a community theatre with absolutely zero arts experience of any kind, Lisa is there to be a sidekick, cheerleader, partner and sometimes protector, ready to knock anyone who doubts me over the head with a figurative iron pot. I couldn't ask for any more and I wouldn't have the freedom or courage to be who I want to be without Lisa beside me.

A couple of Christmases ago, Lisa bought for me a hand-drawn picture of Robin and Marion. She found it in an animation shop in Downtown Disney and just HAD to have it for me. It isn't a scene from the movie, it's just Robin and Marion together. Robin is gazing at his Princess with a real look of "how the Hell did I ever mange to deserve HER?" on his face and Marion is looking out of the picture exuding simple happiness that she has everything she wants in her bandit from the woods. He can't give her riches and he is sometimes more of a challenge than would be ideal, but he is hers and she loves him. It's us. It really is. And I couldn't be happier.

But the best part of that picture is that they aren't standing still. They are Moving Forward. Always. Like us.