Monday, May 10, 2010

Alternate Ending

I've been working on this show called 110 in the Shade. And with working on, I mean stage managing. It's been a good process; we've had the best production team to work with, including many of my friends, the cast has been great and the show turned out very well overall, I think. It is the musical version of The Rainmaker, the lesser known product of the team that wrote The Fantasticks and is rarely produced.

It's got many good things going for it though; the orchestrations are gorgeous, most of the songs are enjoyable and distinct and the characters are compelling. It tells the story of Lizzie, a woman of around 30 years old who has still been unable to find herself a husband. It is 1936 small town Texas and apparently the guys don't go for an educated woman who speaks her mind. So, her dad and brothers are eager to set her up with the sheriff, File, who claims he's a widower but actually got divorced in the next town over. But File doesn't cooperate with their plan to lure him out to the picnic. Enter a smooth talking con artist by the name of Starbuck who claims he can bring rain. He convinces Lizzie of her (inner) beauty (Lizzie's plain-ness is a much discussed topic) and she gets a much needed ego-boost and ends up sleeping with Starbuck.

Of course, File, the sheriff, is after this con man and is coming to arrest him. Lizzie pleads for his release. Then follows a stand-off between the two men, with Lizzie caught in the middle. Starbuck asks her to come with him and File wants her to stay with him. She ends up picking File, because Starbuck wants to make her into something/someone she is not (i.e. more beautiful) and File and she share the desire for "simple little things".

The first time I read the script and I got to the ending I cried out "I don't know if I can deal with this, night after night!". It seemed like such a cop-out. Here Lizzie was, feeling transformed by Starbuck's confidence and attention and instead of taking her new-found self esteem and exploring the world around her, she chooses to immediately settle for the one available (rather boring) guy in town, who, by the way, wasn't very enthused by the idea of having her around to begin with.

Why not, I thought, travel around with Starbuck for a while, seeing more of the world and basking in his (possibly manufactured) adoration before returning to dull-town, Texas and settling down?

Then, through the weeks of rehearsals, I started to revise my opinion. Starbuck was never a real choice for Lizzie and he is quite a jerk as well. After spending the night with Lizzie he basically tells her "Things are never as good when you really get them than when you just think about them". Seriously, I so want her to slap him at that moment.

But, the ending still felt wrong. I understood her choice of File: boring as he is, he fits in her ultimate dream of settling down, mending his socks, cooking him dinner and putting his children to bed... but I still wanted something else for Lizzie.

Then, this Sunday at sound check, Joshua made File and Starbuck sing the face-off song "Wonderful Music" and at the end, the actress who plays Lizzie said "Ehm... no" in response to the "Stay / Come with me!" lines, and I then realized that that is EXACTLY what I want Lizzie to say.

Here she finally has two men begging for her companionship, but I feel like both are poor choices for her. I want her to be her own person, without the need to be attached to a man. I guess I want the feminist version and not the 1960s version where we are all supposed to feel so grateful that now Lizzie has finally conformed to societal norms and will be mending shirts, cooking food and hauling water from the pump happily ever after.

So, here is MY ending:

STARBUCK: Come with me, Lizzie!

FILE: Stay with me, Lizzie!

LIZZIE: Well, thanks guys... but, no thanks. I'm flattered that you're asking me, but I have different plans for myself now. I was all caught up in my inability to get a man, but now that I know I can have you both, I'm not that interested anymore. Starbuck, thank you for showing me the value of me... I will never forget you, but really,.. you are a bit of a douche. You think that coming with you and living in your cramped little wagon while conning good people out of their money is really what I want to be doing? I want to travel, yes, and see more of the world, but I want it to be meaningful. I'm considering joining the Peacecorps... 'cause that will look great on my resume when I come back and apply for a tenure track position teaching at the college...

And File,.. I do feel sorry for you. You're kind of pathetic and lonely, but really, you don't deserve me. You were rather grumpy and extremely paternalistic to me... And I do want to settle down in a nice house and have a passel of kids, but knowing what I do about what happened with your first wife... sheesh, I just don't think I can be confident in your ability to be any more emotionally available to me. And really, I want to see what my other options are. There are some cute available guys over in Peddlyville and Sweetwater I might try first... you know once I come back from my 'round the world trip. Also, I am a teacher and feel that you would not be entirely supportive of my profession, given the fact your wife left you for a school teacher and all... I just don't see it working out right now.

But once again, thanks for asking. I'll never forget you. So long, Three Point, Texas! I don't need a man to complete me after all! I've got places to go!

(Lizzie crosses upstage and exits USR. On her cross we hear THUNDER and see LIGHTNING and the rain starts. Starbuck and File join in the celebration with the other townspeople.)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Three Years

Happy birthday, lief jongentje!

Has it really been three years since those disorienting, painful, exhausting and deliriously happy days at the UW hospital? Has it *only* been three years? Time flies and yet seems to only creep along at the same time...

I remember the midwife reassuring me when the doctors were helping you right after you were born. I remember holding you for the first time. Feeding you. Your first smile. Your first tooth. The first time you sat up... crawled... and your first steps. I remember watching you as you discovered your hands, your feet and the world around you. Developing your first friendships... speaking your first words and going off to school for the first time.

I also so vividly remember the sleepless nights that I think I'm still trying to recover from! The frustration I felt when you'd cry and I had no idea what it was that you wanted. The feeling of isolation that comes with being home with an infant.

You develop and change so much, from day to day, week to week and month to month. Except for your smile, you are nothing like that little baby that I'd have to rock to sleep anymore. You can tell me what you want now... you have an opinion that you can voice, and you do it well. You walk and talk and run and jump and argue and sing and you come up with silly games and scenarios.

You are testing your limits. Recently, you have been experimenting with what will happen when you don't listen, and when you do or say the exact opposite of what someone else says or does. As it turns out, it's not too much fun and I'm hoping you'll be catching on to that fact quickly!

You have started preschool this year. You were so eager to be part of a little group and you are doing extremely well, even though you're the youngest one in your class. I can't believe how much you know already and I love seeing your new interests. You love categorizing and identifying. Dinosaur names, different cars, letters... You knew all the letters of the alphabet when you were 18 months. Now you write your name... You love to point out different countries on the map. You want to learn the names of all the different animals. You can sit through and listen to an entire musical on cd, asking me about the characters and the story.

You have my tendency for personification; I used to give names to everything - from toys to breakfast foods, but you might be taking it to whole new level... You have these little toy rockets that come in colors similar to the characters of "Dinosaur Train", a T.V. show you watch, and now you'll yell out "Mama, watch this Buddy fly!" when you play with them and make them talk and go on adventures. You also just named two kazoos and have conversations with them...

I love the empathy you show for everything - from toys to animals and people. The other day, your friend had left her stuffed animal at our house. When you realized that she'd have to sleep without it, you burst into tears and insisted that we'd go bring it back (no doubt remembering the time you had left your beloved tiger, Coco, at another friends' house).

We do have our ups and downs, you and I, little boy. I try my best to be patient, be consistent and set a good example. But sometimes it just is easier to give in, not explain something for the umpteeth time or worse,.. yell or lose my patience. Your mama is not perfect, liefste... so I guess you might as well get used to it. I only hope that the moments I am not proud of will serve to show you that everyone makes mistakes. And that those mistakes don't mean that I love you any less.

The other day, I was asking you what you wanted to eat. I asked if you wanted a peanut butter sandwich, then realized we were out of peanut butter, so I asked if you'd liked bread with melted cheese before realizing we had no more cheese, either. As a joke, I remarked "Well, it looks like there is NOTHING left to eat for this boy!". You burst into tears... I felt horrible, and assured you that there will always be food for you to eat... but I also was highly amused. You'll find that out one day... parenting is a paradox.

I have finally addressed my need to be working in my field and have gotten back into theatre in this past year. I am gone a lot at night after dinner and for chunks of the weekend, but you don't seem to mind. You get to hang out and have fun with your dad, who usually is excited to spend some time with you after a long day at work. And I love what I do - and I hope that shows. I love sharing my love for theatre with you... when you got so into the story of Honk!, one of the shows I worked on I just about burst with excitement...

I love how you seem to enjoy everyone's company. I introduce you to old and new friends of mine and you immediately call your them your friends as well and ask about their whereabouts. You instantly charm people - even ones that have always felt uncomfortable around little kids.

I love your enthusiasm for things. I love your sweet and gentle nature. I love that you crawl into bed each morning to cuddle before starting your day. I love the way you share. I love the way you think about things...

But mostly... I just love YOU. Out of all the things I am... stage manager, friend, nanny, script writer, daughter, wife, sister, aunt -- I love being your mama the best of all. Good days and bad. Frustrated or confident. Exhausted or not. Like food, there will always be love for you, little boy. And I'll make sure not to joke about that.