Years ago, I listened to a musical on cassette tape that I just thought was very cool. I never saw that musical live until last night. Never saw the Broadway production, or the touring company, although I have seen the filmed version of the Broadway show. So last night, as I walked with friends down 12th St. to Roosevelt High School, I was glad I was going to finally see this piece of theatre everyone these days likes to make fun of.
Cats is based on T.S. Eliot’s collection of poetry called Old Book of Practical Cats. It premiered in 1981, the year I graduated from college. I have always been taken by rather odd projects, and although “story” is all the rage these days, lots of great poetry does something other than tell stories, and not all theatre pieces that create satisfying worlds tell satisfying stories. For me, Cats is a musical world that I find quite satisfying, although the story leaves me wanting.
All that to say, I risk losing some credibility by saying I just like this show. Always have.
All that to say, man…I sure had fun at Roosevelt High School’s production last night. And neither of my kids’ was in it, having left to go off to college. But there is something in the water around here, because my goodness, these kids can sing. To do this play well, you have to have a dozen people who can really bring it, and time after time, character after character, they did.
But what inspired me the most, I think — and inspired isn’t too big a word — was that the anonymity provided by the disappearance into a cat-costume and world allowed these young performers (over 60 0f them) to release their best selves into the work. Mask work will do that for an actor, create a place of safety through which they can explore in ways that aren’t as easy if it’s your same old face pointed at the world. I have always said that performers who are unchained by their inhibitions, fears, etc. and somehow arrive in a moment fully present, fully committed, and fully alive, are some of the world’s most beautiful people. I don’t mean that they are glamorous or good-looking — I mean they are some of the best vessels of Creation-beauty, spirit shining forth, glory-essence leaking into the world.
Last night was a kind of surprise portal, air dense with poetry, authenticity, truth, physical energy, glory, and shine.
Thanks to VK, Beth Orme, and company. Quite a gift to give…
Something of Pentecost in it…