As theatre majors are sometimes prone to do, I was once involved in a discussion of which musicals best defined the American Spirit. Yeah, I’m a nerd. When it was my turn, I went with the musical that to me, speaks volumes about that intangible spirit; Gypsy.
It’s an intriguing concept to take seven different acclaimed playwrights and give each the assignment of writing a short one-act sketch to take place in the same place – a bar – with the only characters being a bartender and a childhood Christmas icon. I’m not talking Santa Claus icon, but those kids we’ve seen in Christmas plays, movies, and television shows who have grown up and have to reconcile their pasts with the present.
The year 1959 was one of profound transition in the United States as we passed from one major epoch into the next. It was also the year that jazz singer Billie Holiday died. Holiday’s passing was just as likely to be reported on the pages of the police blotter as the front page, as her various narcotics charges and wild ways were scandalous to many in that era.
But thanks to the healing distance of time, we can evaluate just how profound her influence was, and can only wonder what might have been had she received the kind of treatment that she needed rather than incarceration.
Even before language existed as we know it, stories were told. They may have been acted out, they may have been danced out the way bees tell how to get to the best pollen fields, but they certainly had a place in primitive societies. As civilizations grew and speaking became the preferred method of communication, stories became an integral part of societal interaction. And the best stories take bits and pieces and weave them into a totally new narrative – often combining elements of horror, humor, and the humdrum in order to make a more powerful statement.
Most of us have imagined embarking on a months-long adventure to exotic places, exchanging our familiar routines for immersive living beyond our comfort zones. Television producer, director, and writer John Marshall lived the dream in 2010 as he, his wife, and their two teenagers traveled and volunteered for six months in a few countries. Marshall’s 2015 book, Wide – Open World, is a plain-spoken, no-indignity barred account of his family’s good and bad experiences of low-budget travel and high-intention goals of helping others abroad while renewing their familial ties.