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.)