Saved by Entertainment

My father and I have a routine every Saturday evening – after dinner, the two of us watch a movie.  We have very different interests but there are some films we can agree on, and they’ve become are our go-to movies.  I enjoy this habitual activity, not only because I love movies but because I love spending time with my dad.  On July 26th, 2013 this routine ended up saving my life.

Well, sort of!  That Friday evening, the apartment building I lived in caught fire.  Friday night is pizza night in our family.  From work I went straight to my sister’s house for dinner and before my dad left to return home he said, “If you feel up to it, stop over and we’ll watch a movie.”  It was a Friday, not a Saturday – out of our routine, but my mom was out-of-town so the two of us had to stick together.  So, when I left my sister’s around 8:30pm I headed directly for my parents’ house.  I felt like watching one of those “classics”, a film that we’ve seen time and again and is always entertaining.  Shortly into the film, we heard a plethora of sirens and said to one another, “That sounds bad.”  Little did we know just how right we were.

Halfway through the movie, my sister called the house line, frantic to reach me.  “Ohmigod!  You nearly gave me a heart attack.  You didn’t answer your cell,” she cried.  “Dad didn’t answer his cell.”  Then she proceeded to inform me that my apartment complex was on fire.  We paused the film and spent the next hour searching the local news websites for details and trying to verify which particular building(s) were up in flames.  By the time it was confirmed to be the building I lived in, my nerves were shot and my head spinning.

There was nothing I could do that night.  I was safe.  I had a place to stay.  I had food, shelter and company.  I thought about my laptop, about the novel I’ve been working on for the past 3 years.  I gasped when I recalled that my grandmother’s stereo/record player was at my place.  My mind raced thinking about all the CDs, DVDs and musical theatre programs I’d collected over the years.  I am an entertainment girl through and through.  It’s key to my identity.  To know that so much was likely destroyed…I couldn’t fathom it.

“Come on,” my dad instructed.  “Let’s finish the movie.  It’ll distract you.”  And that it did.  I got wrapped up in the action of the film, one that I’ve seen and enjoyed many times already.  By the time the movie ended, I was exhausted.  Dad gave me a great, big hug and made me smile.  I cried myself to sleep that night, overwhelmed with what was lost.  With each realization of another piece of memorabilia gone, I felt embarrassed and ungrateful – they were just things and could be replaced.  I was alive and well.  I had a roof over my head, food to eat and a safe place to stay.

I woke up ready to face the day.  I needed to know what the reality of the situation was and handle what I could control.  I’ve always been inspired by characters who, when faced with adversity, look inside and find strength.  This was my life, my story to write.  And if I needed to start from a blank slate…so be it.  My dad told me that day, “Keep moving.  Keep busy.  If you stop to think, it will eat you up inside.”  He went with me to see the damage, kept me company and was the one to call my other relatives so that I didn’t have to.  While my father didn’t physically save my life, he did provide comfort, companionship, and enough space to pick myself up and dust myself off.  And for that I’m eternally grateful!

P.S.  Now that I have to rebuild my collection of theatre programs, I’ve decided that dad will be the first one I take with me back to Broadway!!!!

Fire & Rain: A Tribute to Eponine

**SPOILER ALERT! – If you have not read the novel, seen the film or know the stage production of Les Miserables and do not wish to know what happens then please do not read on.**

IMG_5392
Design inspired by the character of “Eponine”

My first introduction to Les Miserables occurred while watching a beauty pageant on television.  During the late 80s, early 90s, Les Mis was one of 3 shows that everyone talked about – Cats and Phantom of the Opera being the other two.  But if you didn’t sing soprano and were anywhere near the age of 18 then it was more likely you’d gravitate to Les Mis, and the strong-willed character of Eponine.

I heard “On My Own” while watching said beauty pageant.  Not knowing much of anything about the storyline I asked my older sister to explain it to me.  As she relayed the story and I tried to listen to the words of the song being performed I meshed the two together and came away with an odd understanding.  “So, this young girl is singing about an old blind guy?” Until I actually listened to the soundtrack in full did I understand and appreciate the story as a whole.

Who doesn’t root for the character who loves unrequited?  A fiercely loyal and evidently scarred young lady who’s mistreated by all of the people in her life.  Yet she shows strength and complexity while displaying an unbelievable amount of unconditional love.  Eponine’s love for Marius was, and still is, one of the most beautiful love stories in musical theatre.  It’s heartbreaking, moving and ultimately tragic but when Eponine joins Marius on the barricades (unbeknownst to him) and stands with him as his equal there’s something so poetic and romantic about that moment.

Here’s a girl who grew up without a solid foundation beneath her.  With parents who used their daughter to their own advantage.  In evaluating the lyrics of “On My Own” and “Little Fall of Rain” I’ve come to the conclusion that the references of darkness and rain are actually reminders of the bleak life she led before Marius entered her world.  “Sometimes I walk alone at night when everybody else is sleeping.  I think of him and then I’m happy with the company I’m keeping.”  While she had hoped to have been loved in return it was the mere fact of his presence in her life that brought her joy – gave her something to look forward to in the midst of deplorable conditions.

Eponine’s death gets me every time because despite all of the horror that surrounded her she died in the arms of the man she loved.  She was at peace.  She was home.  And while Marius goes on to live a happy life we don’t truly know the depth of his feelings for his friend.  That definitely peaks my creative mind and in researching Les Mis fan fiction I’ve realized that I’m not the only one intrigued!

There are two significant moments in Les Mis that help develop Eponine’s character journey, yet both occur once she has passed.  Firstly, moments after her death the students sing “We fight here in her name.  She will not die in vain.  She will not be betrayed.” For the first time in Eponine’s brief life she’s valued.  She’s noticed and her presence to be remembered.  Then during the “Epilogue” Eponine appears with Fantine to guide Jean Valjean into the afterlife.  Eponine’s life was filled with as much love as there was sadness and the moment she recognized that she was able to die in peace.  So, it is completely fitting that she stands on that stage and sings “And remember the truth that once was spoken, ‘To love another person is to see the face of God'”.

Unfortunately, due to artistic choices neither of those moments appeared in the recent film adaptation of Les Miserables.  Perhaps the interpretation of Eponine differs from mine but that doesn’t diminish what  makes this character so timeless – unrequited love and perseverance through adversity.  Plus, she gets one of the BEST songs in the show!

Champion the Arts

Sports fans wear the jerseys of their favorite players, assemble fantasy leagues, and paint their faces to show their team pride.  They can spout off trivia facts and engage in passionate “discussions” as to the success and failures of their hometown teams.

Sports vs arts

A similar group of individuals exist in the entertainment industry.  We can list off random facts about our favorite actor, actress, writer or director.  We write letters of support or complaint to media outlets and/or the particular interested parties.  And like our athletic counterparts, we have in-depth “discussions” about our favorite moments.  Or more precise…we disagree about which character should be romantically paired with another.

We look forward to our favorite TV shows as much as a football fan readies for Sunday night.  While our sporting counterparts gather with friends and family to drink beer, eat wings, and scream at the referees, we take to the internet to re-hash the positives and negatives of the prior night’s episode.

We watch the special features to learn about the casting process, the set design choices, and the adaptation from book/stage to screen.  We read interviews from the screenwriter to gain insight into the finished work he/she created.  We stand at the stage door after a theatrical performance just to get a picture, signature or to manage an “I loved it!”  We find inspiration and motivation from those who’ve chosen the entertainment industry as their mode of creative expression.

While some of us may yearn to one day play a role in front of or behind the camera, there are just as many who merely want to show their appreciation for a job well done.  Who want to say “Thank You” for creating something that made a difference in their lives.  For giving us an opportunity to look at our life from a different point of view.  To pause and reflect upon the choices we’ve made and to perhaps reconsider a path we were headed towards.

So while my friends and family may plan for the big play-off party I’ll be waiting with excitement for the upcoming entertainment award show season.  May the best team win!