if all the world were a stage

i’d be totally frenched.  see, i hate theatre.  well, not theatre, musicals.  and not just in theatres.  in the movies, too.  although i know that the venues in which movies are played are called theatres as well.  and the soundtracks.  everything.  EVERYTHING about it. 

even my generational imperative for love of nostalgia, real, manufactured and otherwise, has begun to fail the wizard of oz, grease and the sound of music.  those are the musicals i grew up on and so loved as part of my childhood.  at some point in the last ten years, i realized i may love them for what they meant to me at 6, 4, 8, i don’t actually like them.  i don’t want to see them. ever.  again. 

i was chuffed to play jan in PS 21s magnificent stage production of grease.  i LOVED, LOVED LOVED the Sound of Music Tour i went on during my first european backpacking tour.  it was spectacular.  you get to see all of salzburg- an astoundingly beautiful and friendly city, but you also go into the alps, have lunch in the village of st. gilgen, which contains the church from the movie, motzart’s familial roots and a mountain lake of the most incredible blue I have ever seen.  on the way back, you can even give an alpine slide a shot.  you sing the songs on the bus- ineveitably filled with australian, american, canadian and japanese tourists.  everyone knows how absurd the experience is-

oh, to experience the sublime while being completely aware of it…


but, i digress.

i was saying: I HATE musicals.  hatehatehatehatehate.  they’re annoying and inane and they actually personally offend me.  i can’t take it.

the outwardly angelic, but secretly devious, sunny d used this (not so) inside dope during our yearly bet on the march madness brackets.  it’s a relatively new, fantastic, and quite simple tradition whereby the person who scores higher in the pool wins.  and the winner gets to make the loser do whatever humiliating, ridiculous, or lust-for-revenge-sating act the winner decides upon. 

last year, sunny d and i placed our fist wager.  based on my wider love for, and knowledge of, popular sports, i was confident i’d win.  so when ms. d said i’d have to watch the shitstorm that is the film titanic, i readily agreed.  i mean, no WAY she’s going to beat me.  i had this in the bag.  i will have successfully avoided ever seeing that interminable nightmare- surprisingly harder than you’d suspect i might add.

of course i lost.  and lost big.  i won’t deny “got trounced” would be an accurate term.  my skin crawled at the realization of my fate.  i may be an arrogant ass, but i don’t welsh on bets.  not even when i’m given a face-saving exit strategy. so, i watchedendured it.  it happened.  sunny d still can’t believe i sat through the whole thing.  moaning was allowed and i followed the rules to the letter.  i’m pretty sure i even weathered it stone cold sober.

this year, we faced the same situation. 

i picked my brackets based on intuition, inside tips, pointers from every fantasy freak, website and newspaper i knew.  i was convinced that lightning would not strike twice. i would kill her.  all-out slaughter.  so, whatever she wanted, i’d pony it up.  she didn’t need to think for a even a nanosecond.  “Mamma Mia!” she said.  “Oh shit,” I thought, she’s going to take forever to think of something.  the inevitable abbot and costello routine ensued, mostly because every fiber of my being was holding on to its state of denial as if for its very survival. 

“mwahahahaha” she laughed as she twirled her handlebar mustache.  “Mamma Mia! We’re going to see it in the theatre.  The movie theatre.”  My continued and deliberate ignorance would not subside.  “They made it into a movie with Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan.”  ayeeeeeeeee?  Yeah.  I know.  I thought I was hallucinating, too.  Why in the name of all that’s holy and good in the world would anyone of those people ever go with any one of those things? 

Despite the denial, I was still very much in control.  What did it matter?  A movie musical featuring the music of Abba – another entity that offends my existence- with people i liked and respected who would be forever ruined by their association with this dreck?  I might not be able to stop it from happening, but I’d never see it, so I could pretend it was a nasty, dirty, awful rumor some brosnan-haters came up with.

March madness got into full swing.  I was KILLING in the brackets.  Had the number 1 spot for a week, even.  Not that I cared.  Not as long as sunny d’s name was below mine. 


i lost.  i had been sentenced to torture, by my own hand.  in july of 2008, i would paying PAYING to see a musical based on the vaunted works of the swedish trailblazing duo (quartet?  trio?).  sunny d, being the wonder that she is, was kind to me.  in that she didn’t gloat.  too much.  not kind enough to say “just kidding!! your real punishment is to see clone wars with me opening night.” 

so, this weekend i went out to the land of jerz to spend the weekend with my dear friend, watching tv, eating CFIDS-approved food, seething about china during olympic related discussion and go to a multi-plex in wayne for my spoonful of medicine.

we bought tickets.  true to my promise, i payed.  for us both.  i’m a (wo)man of my word.  we played foto-fun in one of those cheesy booths.  i even made “i’m so mad at you for making me see this piece of shit” funny face.  i railed against the injustice that millions were spent on this crap, when people in the world were starving and lacking basic drinking water and medical care.  i sat down, pulled my legs against my chest, tensed my shoulders and got ready to count the minutes.

and then: it happened.

i started to smile.  and then i laughed.  and i even noticed that the general expression on my face was not one of disgust, hatred, contempt or horror.  there was a lot of wincing- mostly due to the smokingly hot, charming, debonair and wonderfully irish pierce brosnan’s abysmal singing.  god, it was unreal.  and they probably edited it. 

i didn’t rock along to the songs like sunny d (who could not have been happier, despite feeling obligated to console me with a hand on my shoulder every time anyone even hummed), i didn’t get emotionally involved, i didn’t start musing on a possible change in my philosophy on the stage and spontaneous bouts of song.  but i did find myself liking it.

wait.  what?

yeah, that’s right.  liking it.  not for its content, but for its quality.  i realized that if i’d liked musicals, i’d be watching an absolutely wonderful movie.  fun, lighthearted, goofy, beautifully set, and all the good things summer movies are supposed to be.  really, what a weird, but wonderful little piece of ridiculousness.  it’s not serious, it’s not weighty, it’s not bad.  it’s what the ocean eleven movies were said to be, except the audience is allowed in the joke, embraced by it, actually.  they were having fun.  and not in a “we’re rich and hip and cool and totally inside” soderburgh sort of way, but in a “i know irish people laugh at tourists who kiss the blarney stone and even pee on it to illustrate their contempt, but i’m kissing it anyway, dammit, because it’s the blarney stone and embracing the harmless, sublime whimsy of it because life is short and i feel free to enjoy the things that will bring me joy and i’m not hurting anyone” kind of a way.

i watched it as if monty python decided to spoof the movie musical, instead of spoofing via the movie musical.  and that made it all okay.   delightful, even.

i mean, i’ve experienced some pretty hairy stretches of time in my life and i knew going in that this wouldn’t be that bad (all things considered) in the grand scheme of things, but i was scared.  mostly that any affection and respect i had felt for pierce brosnan, colin firth and especially stellan skarsgård ( i mean: zunh?  he’s always such a genius, or jerk or bad-ass…).  i knew my adoration for, and continued awesomeness of, meryl streep would make her bulletproof.  that ladies has balls (as those of you whom have seen adaptation know), she has grace, class, her own skin and talent beyond measure.  but these men.  oh, these men.  a dashing irishman  with salt and pepper hair, gorgeous blue eyes (and a bond, for christsakes) who seems the self-deprecating and dedicated family man with a spectacular body.  a funny and charming brit who is not of my usual ilk, but beat every other male celebrity in the we’vegotalongcarridefromvirginiabeachand needtofillthetime,alsowe’rehardup madness brackets to take the whole thing for most desirable man (proving that the specific match-ups are what the brackets are really all about) and actually makes me secretly leave bridget jones’s diary on for a few minutes sometimes.  and then dude who challenged deniro in ronin, connery in red october and got his arm bitten off by a mutant shark in spectacular fashion.  how would i handle these new roles?  would three performers be lost to me forever?  THAT was the real issue here.

well.  for all of you ladies (and gentlemen) who may have the same concern: let me assauge your fears.  mr. firth is appropriate smiley and boyish and fun, and acquits himself well, even making his ridiculous madras shorts and deck shoes bang-able attire.  mr skarsgård barely sings, is generally the surly, stand-offish type, and despite a few momentary visual humiliations emerges relatively intact. 

oh, and pierce.  the singing is rough, y’all.  i’m not gonna lie.  despite the undeniable sexiness from which it emanates, the sound is a turn off.  not just because he’s not getting booked for the next revival of the marriage of figaro.  because spontaneous singing is stupid.  insipid.  annoying. contrived.  etc.  fear not.  the kindly film makers included a sprinkler party wet white shirt kiss at the end (how kind, no?) and all sins are forgiven.

so.  if you really hate movie musicals (like i very sincerely do), avoid it.  it you are as described in the previous sentence, but are able to appreciate things that are not of your taste, check it out on cable.  if you remotely like any of these things, fork over the ten bucks.  and if you get stuck, just imagine michael palin and john cleese are in that greek chorus jigging on the dock in their flippers and aprons.

as it should be.

as it should be


** post script:

in further proof that einstein was right and that the universe is inherently good, when i went to bed after the movie and started flipping through channels, i came upon the hunt for red october.  how auspicious.  and at the end, too, when Captain Tupelov of the russian alpha submarine “Konovalov” angrily, arrogantly and disastrously persues the October through the depths of thor’s twins to his own demise.  stellan was slimy, smart, capable, but flawed by ego.  all was right with the world.


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“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”


Upon common theatres, indeed, the applause of the audience is of more importance to the actors than their own approbation. But upon the stage of life, while conscience claps, let the world hiss! On the contrary if conscience disapproves, the loudest applauses of the world are of little value - john adams
August 2008
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from the man who taught me everything:

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”



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