Feelings not Thinkings
I just watched a video of a live performance of the song "Sunday" from Stephen Sondheim's musical Sunday in the Park With George, which is inspired by the impressionist painter George Seurat. I have the last line of this musical tattooed on my arm and it says "give us more to see".
Sunday on the Isle of La Grande Jatte. Currently at the Art Institute of Chicago. Which I can't remember if I've seen this in person or not. Tattoos are forever.
Watch "Sunday" in Times Square on Instagram Live here (scroll to 3:30 to start the song)
I swear, I was very skeptical of the ballad drums, but it's okay, it's worth it.
And yes, that is Bernadette Peters.
Ever since I can remember I've relied on music and performance to help me want to stay here. Want to stay living in the world. As a kid I would fall asleep (or use the excuse that it was the only thing that would help me fall asleep) to stories on cassette tape based on Vivaldi's the Four Seasons, or <insert any Andrew Lloyd Webber musical here>. Groups of people singing and laughing together has been a reason for hope. I would dream of seeing people perform the shows I loved live in front of my eyes. It's a big reason why I wanted to live in New York City. Maybe *the* reason.
It wasn't so much the recordings themselves. It was the promise that represented something alive.
There's a real trendy thing that's happening on the internet, masquerading as perspective, but in reality serving to shame us, and that's judging the things people miss because of quarantine. "Well, this is worse." You know what? You're damn right that RACISM IS WORSE, no shit. I can list a million things that suck and that are horrible right now. And and and, music and performance and feeling communion with others through live music and theater and storytelling is a way for all of us to cope with the fuckery around us in the world. And that is still on hold.
Seeing a group of broadway performers on the red steps in Times Square performing "Sunday" shook me in a way I haven't felt in months. A wispy ghost of what seeing a show used to feel like. A presque vu of communion. An old friend who is trying to talk to me in a dream but I can't see their face. It's not just the idea that I've forgotten these individual singers are still here, still alive, but the idea that they could be together and singing as one, performing as one new beautiful moment of many. A group of voices that even through screens and glares decries we are still here and we refuse to disconnect from each other. We belong in all of our various configurations of pairs, groups, casts, families, teams, and many, and we will get as close as we can to that. Like a god damn Whoville Christmas.
Do you remember all the Who people singing around the Christmas tree after all their presents got taken away and Christmas was ruined? They could still hold hands and SING TOGETHER!!!*
*We need an all-black remake of the Grinch. I think Chris Rock would be an amazing Grinch.
I'm writing a thing to express myself and because it's really needed to not feel alone right now, in present time with what we're struggling with. There has been so much loss in many different facets. If you used to go see shows and/or perform a lot and you haven't been able to since March, that's a big loss. My therapist asks me how I'm coping, what am I doing to cope with things. Well, I used to go see someone do a thing and be around people in a group. If you used to gather with friends and feel a sense of belonging and identity on a sports team, or in a band, or just hanging out at your neighborhood bar, it's a huge loss and contributes to feeling disconnected. And we shame ourselves for not being able to handle it better because we aren't DEAD due to a deadly virus or deadly racists.
Look. There's room for both: 1. Having empathy and rage for the suffering due to COVID and the suffering due to racism (and other systemic atrocities) 2. Allowing yourself to still feel shitty because you can't do the things you love doing and you can't connect in the ways you wish you could (also called coping). 3. Being grateful for what you do have and have not suffered yourself. And yes, 3 things is both. Everything is both.
We've all lost a lot this year. Whatever it is that you've lost, you must feel it. Even if you have gained things, even if you have lost something that doesn't feel like you "deserve" to grieve because there are so many worse things...yes you do and moreover, you must. There is no way that you can think yourself well. In fact, I'd be worried about you if you were just peachy right now. It's easy right now to want to latch onto hope like it's this life raft, like the fact that you can expand your quarantine pod a little or the fact that you can go inside a store now, or that gyms are open 25% or that you're going back into the office...none of that means we're normal again. Nothing is normal. And by normal, I mean connected. Truly connected.
There are some shining beacons of hope that even reach through the screen (in my opinion) and one of them is that SNL is back. Just watching the cast gathering like they always do after the show, wearing their masks, the band behind them, brings me a tremendous sense of connection to something bigger than myself that isn't filled with uncertainty (like the election). You guys, they invited first responders to watch the show live for free. *sob bucket*
From Chris Redd wearing his Breonna Taylor mask while hugging Kate McKinnon (far left), to Jim Carey delivering an amazing Joe Biden impression, to Maya Rudolph's triumphant Kamala return, to the host being god damn Chris Rock and the musical guest being god damn Megan Thee Stalion, it was so alive.
We're doing our god damn best with the technology available to us, but the lack of being in a group of people, the fear of physical closeness with friends, the lack of live shows and performances of all kinds...I know we have bigger fish to fry but also OH MY GOD. I just never thought I'd live in a world where people cannot ETHICALLY congregate and SING and LAUGH in a group. What a spiritual death. And it's confusing because it's not a death, it's a pause. It's purgatory. And it's still uncertain.
An admirable example of technology doing its best to foster connection.
May I present, Emily Mills and her zoom background performing their
original choreography titled "Give Me The Fish"
In conclusion, we're still in quarantine everyone. Give yourself a break, keep the faith, keep the patience, and mourn. MOURN everything that you've lost. Because everyone has lost something, some more than others. Now is the time to surrender to the grief and uncertainty and in that, feel a sense of absurd safety like we are huddled together praying. None of us are in control. In this way we are connected as well. We are all grieving things and nobody knows what the future holds. So hold on. I am too.