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April 22, 2013

Why do I love musical theater? Mostly it’s a consequence of having grown up in a household with a theater professor who directed four shows each year, and who provided me and my friends unlimited access to tickets for his own shows and those directed by the other professors in what is still a good theater program at Southeast Missouri State University.

Not only do I love watching, though; occasionally there’s a show I adore enough to want to join in. This is not something I do lightly; I have to gear my introvert self up for it, often by singing Winifred’s song from Once Upon a Mattress in my head (“I’m shy!”).  The last time I did this, it was for Brigadoon; who can resist the chance to sing some songs over and over–out loud–for a few months?

This weekend I tried out for my small town’s big summer show, The Music Man, along with my friend Pamela, Walker and some of his friends, and an assortment of older people I know only slightly. Why? Part of it, I know, is an attempt to forestall weepiness at the thought of our last summer together before Walker goes off to college (he has decided on Oberlin). Part of it is getting over the weepiness of last fall’s hysterectomy. Part of it is throwing caution to the wind and giving in to a public display of a great love affair. It feels like this poem by Cynthia Huntington:


Do not invite him lightly to your bed.
This is a man of persistence and great sloth.
Sweet leaves brought slowly to the mouth; the branch
Bent down, low constant sounds, a hum along

The neck, the nape, the nipple—his tongue’s long,
Ostensible kisses. This is a man
Who wants to rearrange your furniture, to devour
Your resume. Do not ask him to see you across

The river. The glow of your cheek on the pillowcase,
Creased hieroglyphic of time the skin recalls,
Invites discovery. A branch snaps underfoot,
The leaves speak backwards: forget. . .

Your day job. Your night school. Your green canopy.
By morning your passport wears another name.

It is not wise to give in to such a love affair. But sometimes, especially in the first new green of spring, with the white ornamental pear blossoms above and the yellow dandelions appearing underfoot, I find it irresistible. How about you?

22 Comments leave one →
  1. April 22, 2013 12:22 pm

    Now that you mention it, I was in the chorus of my 6th grade production of Fiddler on the Roof. It was a great deal of fun.

  2. lemming permalink
    April 22, 2013 12:29 pm

    This is why I teach. 🙂

    • April 24, 2013 9:13 am

      So you have to gear up for it? I can see that. I used to like to make an entrance, sometimes.

  3. April 22, 2013 6:26 pm

    As a family, we tend to use musical theater lyrics in place of conversation. (“So how was the staff meeting?” “‘Pick a little, talk a little, pick pick pick…”) We all have to restrain ourselves from bursting into song at inappropriate moments – those of us who can sing (like Jenny) as well as those of us who cannot and should never sing (me). So I get the feeling – and love the poem.

    • April 22, 2013 6:33 pm

      This is facts. I have to remember in company that it’s not normal to just start singing in the middle of a conversation. Other people will not join in. They will just look at you funny.

      • April 24, 2013 9:07 am

        We would join in! When the kids were little, we agreed that we were all restricted to two relevant lines of a song during dinner, so no one would monopolize conversation and avoid eating.

      • Jenny permalink
        April 25, 2013 4:13 pm

        We would join in, too! Like Jenny, I have to remember it’s not normal to have a song for every occasion.

    • April 24, 2013 9:12 am

      Also Nancy, I love your example. I had hopes of being one of the ladies who sings “pick a little, talk a little” but they’re doing it with all sopranos, as usual. I am a very low alto; my range is the C below middle C to the C above it.

  4. April 22, 2013 8:48 pm

    Ah, The Music Man. I worked on a high school production of that show when I was teaching. It’s a fun one! I do love to join in on a good show, although it’s been ages since I’ve done so. I think it’s that I don’t like how being in a show rearranges the furniture of my life, even if temporarily. Maybe one of these days, I’ll decide it is worth it again.

    And if I know the song, I will totally join in if someone bursts into song during a conversation.

    • April 24, 2013 9:10 am

      How being in a show “rearranges the furniture of my life” is exactly why I connected the coyote poem to trying out! You know it’s not a good idea, and yet…

  5. April 23, 2013 11:21 am

    I have never felt drawn to perform, but I think you know I adore theatre! You’ll have to let me know if you get a part in Music Man, that’s so much fun.

    • April 24, 2013 9:10 am

      You adore theater the way I adore novelists–with pure intent to admire, and no yearning to imitate.

  6. April 23, 2013 1:49 pm

    How fun! When will you find out what part you get?

    Loved the poem too.

  7. April 23, 2013 5:38 pm

    I worked in the background for school plays as I didn’t have the guts to audition and there were already great actors, but theatre overall is great fun. Hope you get a part 🙂

  8. Jenny permalink
    April 25, 2013 4:16 pm

    I’ve always thought I’d do this when the kids got older. I did theatre in high school (including musical theatre) and always loved it. And have a habit of using bits from musicals to make a point. (Short people have long faces, and long people have short faces. Big people have little humor, and little people have no humor at all.)

    • April 25, 2013 4:23 pm

      The first time I did a community theater show with both kids, the show was Brigadoon and Walker was a first soprano (he is now a baritone and starring as Willy Wonka in his high school musical).

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