Act 1: March Madness – The Broadway Musical

I vividly remember the first time I went to The Peace Center here in Greenville for a show. My great aunt “Marcar” took me and my siblings to see the traveling production of Disney’s Beauty and The Beast. She pulled some strings and was able to get us seats in a box. The first time in my life I felt bouije – and I ain’t even sorry about it. I remember wheeling my chair all the way to the edge of the box and resting my head on the balcony. I did not move until the show was over. I was enamored with everything. The costumes were gorgeous, Broadway people are beautiful (jawlines for DAAAYYYYSSS) and everyone sings and dances throughout the entire thing! This is how life truly should be.

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Over the years I have kept every single playbill from every single production I have been to. They are in a shoebox under my bed. I have laughed, sobbed, cringed, held my breath, exhaled loudly, prayed, and so many more actions at these productions. There have been a couple that are rare enough to have made me do all of these in one evening. Many of these shows can teach us so much about life, who we are, and how we can be better versions of ourselves. The theatre going experience is something I wish we could require for all people. It is a vital art form that deserves protected status in our society. What does it need protection from? The constant barrage of attacks to funding and the continued questioning of whether or not it is necessary.

Money Makes the World Go Round. And apparently to use that money you should have something called a budget (I don’t know what that means either). When making budgets you don’t always have enough money and so everybody gets less or somethings get cut from your budget all together.When it comes to making budgets for funding everything from countries to schools, one of the first things that gets cut is funding for the arts and other subjects (including social studies) that get lumped into the category of humanities. This is both wrong and shortsighted. It will save you pennies today but it will hurt you in the long run. If you disagree, thats fine, but you are still wrong and now you go rock on somebody else’s less cultured front porch. Research backs it up.

Studies have shown effective arts integration raises test scores AND increases social learning (empathy, tolerance, etc.) skills that are vital in everyday life. You don’t like that one go and Google it yourself. There are thousands of studies that have come to similar conclusions. And with all that information our current Predicament President continues to advocate for cutting funding or completely eliminating funding altogether for important programs like The National Endowment of the Arts, The National Endowment for Humanities, and dozens of other agencies. I want even mention the millions he wants to spend on a military parade that the military doesn’t even want; I will just leave you with today’s hashtag instead: #overcompensating .

If none of the above sways you on why the theatre is important and why you should go, allow me to give you my personal reasons as to why you should give it a chance. This list could have equaled the number of minutes in a year, but for the sake of brevity, I will keep it to the most important.

#1 – Theatre is Life.

There is a well known saying that says “Theatre is Life. Cinema is Art. Television is Furniture.” While I don’t 100% agree with it putting theatre completely above cinema and television I do feel it is the most authentically human experience you can observe – because you are actually watching people do it. Oprah once struck me over the head with one of her many pieces of wisdom during a commencement address when she said:

“There is a common denominator in the human experience that we all share. We all want to know that what we do, what we say, who we are matters. We want to be validated. Every single person in every single confrontation in every single encounter than you have is really about do you see me? Do I matter to you?”

That speaks perfectly to the crux of every single Broadway Production I have ever seen. I challenge you to try and come up with a show where that is not a major piece of the plot line or one of the character’s journey throughout the story.

#2 – Theatre is for Everyone.

Every Broadway Queen just said “YAS!”  There is a reason the LGBTQ community gravitates towards the theatre. It was the first place that truly accepted them for who they were. There is a reason theatre kids literally glow when they get on stage. It gives them permission to exude the art that is a fundamental piece of their souls. And while they are on that stage people will clap and cheer for them instead of tease or belittle them. Some of the greatest Broadway songs of all time speak directly to this point. While many of us have been moved to tears the lyrics behind these powerful songs are so relatable because we all want to find our place in the sun where we belong. If you would like examples look here. Or here. Or this one too. But don’t forget about this one. And last, but certainly not least, Shrek! Two years ago the Tonys had the tough job of airing on the same Sunday that 49 beautiful souls lost their lives at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. James Corden scrapped his entire opening monologue that was filled with what I am sure are funny jokes to do a somber cold open that was backed up by the Broadway community’s most important stars say this:

It was powerful to watch. It was an elegant remembrance that didn’t darken the whole night of an awards ceremony. It was a hug the LGBTQ community needed. It was proof that somewhere there is a place for us all.

#3 – Theatre is Political Activism

As a history teacher allow me a chance to give you some historical background. HIV/AIDS was discovered and diagnosed in the early 1980s. There was no funding and research being done by the government – President Reagan didn’t even say the word AIDS until the late 1980s. The LGBTQ community was hit hard and the Broadway community was being decimated. Writers, choreographers, musicians, dancers, and singers in the prime of their lives were dying by the hundreds. When they government offered little help the Broadway community began doing it themselves. They have been protecting their own and many others since then. Broadway Cares and Equity Fights AIDS were created and eventually merged into Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The organization has raised over $285 million for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, education, and research funding. And how might they have done that? By singing. and By getting naked for Broadway Bares. Attending a Broadway Bares is one of my bucket list items.

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One of the only tame photos I could find from Broadway Bares, Google though. You will see what I am talking about in point #4. Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

#4 – Theatre is Sexy, Talented Eye Candy

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One of my favorite things about a show being in town at The Peace Center is it makes scrolling through certain “social networking” apps a whole lot more fun. Most actors (and yes I am including females in this statements) range from early 20s to late 40s. Then men have jawlines and cheek bones for days. I would literally chop of my arm for hair that swoops like theirs does. Ladies have impeccable smiles and legs that come up to most women’s shoulders. And I am just gonna throw this out there. Broadway booties are better than non Broadway booties. On top of all that going for them, they sing and dance. At. The. Same. Time. It is just not fair. If you are skeptical of my analysis perhaps you will take the advice of the lady who sits behind me. She is somewhere in the area we would call middle aged and she comes to the show with her sister. Last time Book of Mormon was in town when one of the Mormons appeared on stage she whispered (my teacher hearing kicked in) to her sister: “he could ring my doorbell any day, but I would prefer he ring at night.” I laughed through most of the first act. Sebastian Stan and Jeremy Jordan are all you need to know. Or you can check out other actors and actresses yourself.

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Sebastian Stan. He even makes the name itself sound sexy.

#5 – Theatre is an escape from life about life.

This one might just be the most important of all. Theatre is about real life, but that only matters because it let’s you forget about your own life for a few moments. You may be stupid. You may be ugly. But you are HERE! Take a load off our your Kinky Boots and let some awesome people sing to you just how wonderful it is when you go “dancing through life.” You will love it! They will make you laugh, make you laugh and beg for more all in under three hours. After its over I will take you to a whoopee spot – and you don’t even have to rouge your knee. Only an artistic medium like the Broadway Stage could accurately portray the bitch of living.¹

To have a full circle moment from where I started in the beginning I will leave you with this: A Great NC State basketball coach who once led the WolfPack to a National Championship. Years later as he was dying from terminal cancer, Jim Valvano let the world in on an excellent piece of wisdom. He said there were three things you should do each day for it to be a good day. Those three things were: Laugh, Think, and Have your emotions be so powerful they move you to tears. Coach Valvano was right. Its a helluva day when you laugh, think, and cry in one day. So go to the theatre, and have yourself a helluva day.

 

¹  10 Points for Slytherin (are you surprised I was sorted there) if you can tell me how many musical references I have in this post and what musicals they came from.  Good Luck!

 

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