Monday, April 14, 2008

Heartdogs, Performers, and Readers. Oh My!

This is Terri in her role as Sister Mary Amnesia in a Forst Inn production of "Nunsense." Terri has entertained many local theatre-goers over the years. Best known for her comedic abilities and impeccable timing, Terri can also wow an audience with her lush alto voice, happy dancing feet, and attention to character detail. On Wednesday night, Terri, along with a cast of about 35, will dress up silly, wait for Connie to hit the first notes on her keyboard, and kick off the eight night run of Heart-A-Rama '08 - "Heart-A-Rama Goes Exploring."
Our first dress rehearsal in our new "theatre" went marvelously well. Driving home from Two Rivers I continued thinking about something that struck me as I watched the show. I wonder what compells singers to sings, dancers to dance, actors to act, and writers to write. I had just spent nearly five hours with people dressed as -you name it - a giant hot dog, the bow of a Viking ship, a flock of tap-dancing seagulls - and I never thought to ask anyone why they do it. Would I have gotten a serious reply from Brenda, the chrysanthemum, or Al, our octogenarian dancing German girl? Chances are, they would have said they are doing it for the cause - for the American Heart Association. But, if helping that group is their sole motivation, they'd just hand over a chunk of change and move on, right?
So, what is it about the arts anyway? And how do these kindred spirits find each other? I marvel that like minds somehow mysteriously connect with each other, leading to creative explosions that affect the world. Look at Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat, Madonna and David Bowie. What a high-powered group that must have been. No matter how short-lived their various and random connections were, nuances of their energies can be found in each of those artist's works. There's Truman Capote and Harper Lee. Was it coincidental that these two literary heavyweights lived next to one another, and did their creative excesses flow between them, resulting in a symbiotic relationship that gave us memorable works such as Breakfast at Tiffany's and To Kill a Miockingbird? I know, they each published individually, but we do know that Harper Lee was Capote's research assistant on In Cold Blood, and some literary critics believe that Capote's hand can be detected throughout ...Mockingbird. Then there are Emerson, Thoreau and Hawthorne, those New England transcendentalists, who were frequent visitors in one another's homes. Can you just imagine what those dinner conversations were about? Did they discuss social injustice, the solitude of life at Walden Pond? did they debate the significance of current projects, argue about politics? Perhaps they simply spent quiet evenings, enjoying each other's company, laughing over a glass of whisky, and playing poker. I envy that creative connection, no matter how it is generated, or how it expresses itself.
A bigger question that comes to mind when I think about those powerful artistic associations is "Did they know who they were?" Perhaps that's part of the magnetism that brings artists together. That never-ending drive to go beyond the previous offerings, to stretch past imaginable limits, and to live in a constant whirlwind of image and thought, would frustrate, annoy, and tire most people, but artists somehow know how to act upon that - they make things, and they make things happen. In that respect, perhaps they do know who they are, but not who they will be in the lives of those of us who can only consume, appreciate and try to understand what they have created.
Maybe Heart-A-Rama is like that in a way. We know who we are right now, but have no idea what impact our work will have in the big picture. In the present, our evenings of "shameless exploitation for the good of others," brings smiles and laughter to the audience, and to the hundreds of volunteers who make the show happen. The fun we will have over the next two weeks translates to dollars for heart health in ways we may never know.
This weekend I was able to sneak in a movie, La Vie En Rose. Marion Cotillard stars as French chanteuse, Edith Piaf. I discovered Piaf a few years ago, and although I cannot understand a single word she sings, her voice is haunting. Her life was as remarkable as her music. She was a sickly little girl who had the misfortune of growing up in a brothel, and then in a circus. She was plucky enough to get beyond it all. This is not a rags to riches story. Far from it. Nonetheless, Piaf's story is sad, inspirational, and her music is breathtaking.
Ogee! This weekend, I learned that people are really reading this blog. Up until now, I thought I may have simply been committing random thoughts to cyberspace, but since that isn't the case, I may have to reconsider my approach. Random thoughts don't require much planning, or editing. I'm not sure that I want to return to those college days of agonizing over every word, mulling over the rhythm and syntax of each sentence, and striving for balance and flow in each paragraph. The end result would be than same message written in stronger prose. Let me think about that. If the blog goes dead for a while, it means I'm thinking it over!
Someone asked why I never use last name. Many of my friends like to function with a degree of anonymity, so I am granting them that protection. For example, if I tell you that today I am proudly wearing my Heart-A-Rama shirt designed by Kristin and Kevin, they can deny it if they choose to. Kristin can say," No, you must be talking about some other talented artist named Kristin who designs for HAR." Kidnappings, stalkings, and bags of fan mail dumped on their doorsteps are also avoided by not using last names. Maybe I'll start putting little Long Ranger masks on their pictures to protect them even further.
What not to say to an indy bookstore owner (#1) Do you have the phone number of Barnes and Noble?
What am I reading? I started Miss Julia Speaks her Mind and am loving it. But, it's my book group book for May, so I though I'd read it closer to our meeting date. Instead, I decided to go with The Latehomecomer: a Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang. The author immigrated to Minnesota when she was only six, but the story of her family, and her people is powerful. More later.

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