Upon Further Reflection

It’s always about the music.  My heart and soul lies in musical theater, Sondheim will forever be the most brilliant composer and lyricist of all time, Les Miserables will always bring me to tears as soon as the overture begins, and theatre will continue to be amplified by the musical choices made by it’s directors.  Last year I saw War Horse at Lincoln Center and what struck me the most was the use of music throughout the production.  Maybe this is because I pretty much have a constant soundtrack to life running through my head at any given moment, continuously singing melodies to myself, suppressing the urge to belt them out at the top of my lungs.  My rendition of  ‘Everything’s Coming up Roses” remains one of the shining moments of my 10-year-old life, but this remains safely locked away in the deep recesses of my parents storage, where no one will ever ever see it.

I think NPH sang it best at the Tony’s.

But in all seriousness the choice to include or exclude music can be a tricky one for a straight play.  Is it appropriate?  Does it enhance the story? Will it lessen the authenticity of the play by using a ‘gimmick’ like music?  I’ll admit that sometimes music is an inappropriate choice, it can lead the audience to a specific emotion rather than letting them get there on their own.  But I think, more often than not, it is the right choice.  It creates an internal connection with a person, whether they realize it in that moment or not.  There’s a reason the human species created music in the first place, a reason that everyone listens to music in some form or another.  It might not all be your cup of tea, but I would venture to guess that every single person has at least 1 favorite song.  It’s why movies have soundtracks, why we whistle while we work (well maybe we don’t all whistle) but you get my point.  So why am I rambling on and on about music in theatre?

Well, last night I had the pleasure of seeing Black Watch (in full this time) at The Shakespeare Theatre Company.  I knew what I was getting myself into from the preview I was invited to a few weeks ago.  I’ve been out of town a lot recently, dancing my little feet off on wedding reception dance floors, and didn’t know whether I was going to get a chance to see it before it closed.  But I did, and can I just say that STC’s  $18 under 35 ticket discount is AMAZING.  As a person who currently works 3 part-time jobs in order to continue this dreamlife of living in our nation’s Capitol, sometimes my tight purse strings can get in the way my theatre going plans.  But I was able to snag a ticket to Thursday night’s show, which also just happened to be #STCnight.  As I settled in for the 2 hour, no intermission production, I was anticipating how many times I would go flying out of my seat due to ‘loud noises’ cautioned on the signage outside the theater ( I tend to startle quite easily), and how I would nonchalantly play it off as intentional to the 2 strangers sitting on either side of me.  I wondered how much of the play would be set in the field, and how much would be brought back to the pool hall.   I knew I would probably tear up, just a little, as I often do when faced with anything regarding war and soldiers, I expected that.  What I didn’t expect was that what would resonate most in this production would be music, sung by these soldiers, these boys; or rather I wasn’t expecting much music as all.

It seems like such a small thing, two soldiers singing a tune that I’ve never heard before.  It sounds traditional, but I can’t be sure.  Standing above us, across and diagonal from each other, their harmonies meeting in the middle, and washing over the theater.  The Golden Thread that they spoke about earlier on, seems to make its connection here.  This song must be old, a piece of the past, a tradition that connects the soldiers of the Black Watch regiment to their predecessors and now with their comrades.  This was what connected me to Black Watch, the moment when all the pieces sort of fell into place.  That goose-bumpy feeling.  ‘Twa Recruiting Sergeants’  And rest assured, this is about to be on repeat on the good ‘ol iPhone, though I doubt any recording will do it the justice that this production did.

So here I sit, typing away, attempting to express what it is that I love about the theatre as best I can.  And what it boils down to this.  Sometimes I think we’ve lost our sense of wonder in the world, our sense of simple joy.  Everything is so serious, we don’t sing enough, we don’t dance enough, we don’t enjoy enough.  I don’t really wish that the world were a constant barrage of people singing and dancing in the streets (well actually I kind of do) but whenever I am sitting in that dark theater, and someone starts singing…out loud…I’m reminded that even at its saddest, music lifts.  When that music is intertwined with the real life (ok sometimes make believe) stories on stage, something truly great happens.  It’s why I love theatre.  Plain and simple.


Julie Feeney in DC

Last week I had the pleasure of working with an amazing Irish artist and singer/songwriter composer, Julie Feeney.  She’s Fabulous, a truly talented lady with an eye for fashion to rival the most inventive fashionistas.  Now before Julie arrived in DC I did a little reconnaissance, I had heard tell of her fashion forward ways, and I knew she had a dress made out of composition paper, but I was unprepared for the ease at which this fashion flowed.  It was effortless.  I picked Julie up from the Train station on Monday night and checked her into her hotel.  Scheduled for 4 performances throughout DC.  Julie’s first performance was at The Gibson Guitar Showroom in Chinatown, a beautiful and intimate venue, with what may be the most gorgeous Gibson guitars hanging on the walls.  Julie was fantastic and the audience loved every minute of it.

Wednesday night The Pinkline Project hosted a Salon Contra with Julie.  We arrived at Pinkline HQ 2 hours before showtime in order to get Julie into her ‘Pages’ dress.  A garment fashioned out of the pages of her 2nd album ‘Pages.’  The pages are hand-stitched together with gold thread, the bodice is tied together in the back with gold ribbon.  Once in the dress, and with her multi-colored House Hat placed strategically atop her head, Julie was ready to step out in front of the anxious salon contra patrons.  Performing a primarily a cappella set, her vocals were flawless.  As pointed out by Ryan Holladay, of BlueBrain, it is the sign of a truly talented musician when they can walk away from the piano, sing a cappella, and return to the piano not having wavered in pitch in the slightest.  As expected the audience was mesmerized by her to the final note.

and did I mention her shoes, I think I may have fallen in love with them.

Thursday night found Julie back in her ‘Pages’ dress delivering a short performance for audience members awaiting entry into the Flashpoint theatre for the 3 play production of Project Brand New.  As she wandered the gallery, her vocals filled the space.  Seriously if you haven’t clicked over to her page yet, and listened to at least a few of her tracks you should do it right now, and then of course come back to finish reading this post.  

Julie’s last DC performance was at Kulturas Books, a local second hand book/sort of vintage clothing shop.  I’ve walked past the storefront a few times on my way up Connecticut and stepped in for the first time friday night to start setting up for the much anticipated storefront performance.  A quaint shop window with just enough room for a keyboard and a mic.  It created the perfect atmosphere.  Julie brought out her Attack On Humans “Cloud” dress for the evening, complete with House hat (also designed by Attack on Humans), and Ruby Red heels with black socks underneath.  We tweeted the location a fews hours before the show, but a majority of our audience were those who happened to walk down Connecticut and find, to their surprise, a woman in a cloud dress, with a house on her head singing her lungs out.  She surprised even us at Solas Nua by stepping out from behind the window and performing ‘Myth’ which, for those of you who were at the Gibson show know, requires Julie to get up close and personal with the audience as she whispers the songs lyrics into their ears.  This was perhaps my favorite performance of the week, and a fantastic final performance in DC.  Can’t wait to have her back in the Spring.

One Last Post on Rwanda I Promise

As it is Friday and I will be moving onto next weeks readings for my IOs class this will be my final post on Rwandan art. I just wanted to do a little follow up on the previous post. I found an article from the Peace Review interviewing Odile Gakire Katese, Arts Director at the Centre Universitaire des Arts at the National University of Rwanda. The article is particularly interesting as a followup because she speaks on art initiatives at the University, specifically regarding experiences of genocide. She explains that the vision of the arts project is to create a “new representation of genocide, to create new memories, new ideas, new ways of thinking, and new relationships.” With the goal of inspiring peace and rehabilitation.

15 years after the genocide, in 2009 the Center had developed 5 major projects to facilitate this mission.

  1. The CD release of a talented Rwandan Musician
  2. A book collection of letters written to the dead by 15 survivors and 15 perpetrators, along with 15 women who would write on behalf of the dead to fill the anbsense.  The writers were asked to share whatever they would like.  The purpose was to create an environment of reconciliation and rehabilitation
  3. A musical and poetic performance that questioned the role of memory in regards to genocide and what types of memory are created 15 years later
  4. The Azimutus Festival- hosting many art forms
  5. A documentary film that would follow these projects and bring to light the role of culture in Rwanda.

Katese emphasized the importance in developing culture and investing in humankind as a means of healing and understanding.

Works Cited:

Hron, Conducted Translated by Madelaine(2009) ‘Interview with Arts Director Odile Gakire Katese’,
Peace Review, 21: 3, 363 — 366
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/10402650903099443
URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10402650903099443