Friday, May 6, 2016
Why Do We Hate Success?--Kicking At Hamilton's Sixteen Tonys.
When I was a kid, I was in a play that was written, composed and directed by Theater Gods.
To say this production struggled is a kind way to put it. Audiences hated the main character. Most didn't understand the point of the plot. It stunned me that the Gods couldn't see what was wrong. In my kid brain, it seemed to me that they all three were--how can I say this--crippled humans, missing some ethical arm or leg. And since they saw the main character as themselves, their blindness about their lives blinded them to this character's massive and unappealing flaws.
One day, when I found myself alone with God One, I actually tried to explain this to him revolving around one particular choice having to do with my character. I was lucky God One didn't get angry with me for this stupidity. Instead, He gave me justifications for his life choices. "No, no, no," God One explained. "It was just that, at that time, I was so young--" (in his mid-thirties ) --"that I didn't Understand what I was Doing, didn't know what I was missing." (What he was still missing, I think, as his comment completely missed the point.
So, okay, God One was blind, as were Gods Two and Three. I get that.
But what also fascinated me was the way people in the community--folk who purportedly adored all three Gods--were so delighted at the play's problems. Passionate fans would pull me aside and in a voice like the elephants of Dumbo, (that superior nasal whine,) would say, "I heard it's terrible," delight on their faces.
I saw that same comment on the New York Times comments pages about Tony nominations for Hamilton, the musical. Yes, I think it's fricking brilliant, based on the album and the pieces I have managed to see on the internet. Yes, I passionately wish I could see it, many times. Yes, I'd love to meet several cast members and have them over to dinner, or breakfast, talk with them about things that matter in life.
But even if I didn't think it was wonderful, would I, as someone who has never seen the musical, put my trunk to the side of my mouth, narrow my eyes, and whine, "Hate rap music. Won't even bother to see it. The history is all wrong. The Emperor Has No Clothes," or even--get this--"When they put on an All-White production of a play about Martin Luther King, that I will see this." Thus blindly ignoring the marvelous, transformative power of theater, that magic that happens--Look, in the theater, Alexander Hamilton could be played by three different people at the same time, one of them female, one Inuit--heck, we could do an all Inuit production of Hamilton, translate it into Inuit, just as we do with Shakespeare. If the writing is strong enough, if people understand stage magic, it can work.
I wish we had more stage magic in our lives, not less. Maybe then we would remember that things--ideas--people--dreams--goals--can change form, change shape without using their essence. In fact, that life's essence is illuminated more clearly the more we allow the exterior to be plastic, changeable, to flow.
And I wish people could face, head-on, what underlies the great green bottle-fly eyes of envy--that some of us are not working toward the kind of life that we really want to have. Because if you're working, even if you're a Blind Theater God making tragic, painful mistakes, if you're out there in the public, envy is not the place you live.