I wanted to write about something Thanksgiving themed this week, but I wasn’t sure what to write. Telling you all to be thankful is not exactly breaking new ground, and finding theatrical examples to tie in is a daunting task I’m not exactly up to doing. Instead, I’d like to just talk about some of the shows in my life that I’m thankful for.
Always and forever, Newsies will have a special place in my heart. I truly grew up with this show, seeing it on tour seven times in six cities, five states, and all four U.S. time zones. Though for much of my life I was scared to travel alone, Newsies held my hand and helped me transition from flying by myself across the country to Boston (where I met one of my best friends in person for the first time, stayed with her family, and saw the show with her), to flying to Texas where I again met another friend. That time, I stayed at a hotel and was much more independently on my own.
Not only that, but Newsies also helped me find the courage to accept myself and come out to my father. In Katherine (in addition to beautiful costumes, fun wigs, and an incredible solo), I also saw myself. I saw a young woman whose father maybe wasn’t the most supportive of her, but despite that - or, in a way, maybe because of it - was able to stand up for herself and for what she believed in, and make the world a better place because of it.
2. The Prom
A newcomer on Broadway just in the past week, I’ve been anxiously awaiting its arrival on Broadway since its out-of-town tryout. My identity is important to me, and since the show that gave me the courage to come out isn’t even about LGBT+ themes, it probably won’t surprise anyone to learn that I’m not really used to seeing myself represented. Now, I’ve seen Fun Home, and I agree with the general consensus that it’s important, it’s a work of art, and it deserved its Tony- but, The Prom is more my speed.
As a gay gal, my life is not quite as serious as Fun Home. There are some similarities, of course, but as far as I know, my father isn’t a closeted gay, nor has he committed suicide. We don’t own a funeral home either. And the map I would need to draw my father’s life would be much larger than a small town in Pennsylvania, because his dad was a nuclear engineer, and he’s lived just about everywhere in the United States.
What I can relate to, though, is being a lesbian in high school. I can relate to a small town where people don’t necessarily hate you, but they think you’re wrong for being who you are. I can relate to the idea of “Note to self: don’t be gay in Indiana.” (For me, it’s Idaho, but hey, starts with an I, ends with a vowel, and has an ‘a’ in the middle. Close enough.) And, if I didn’t believe that theatre has power and the stars of theatre can also do real good, I wouldn’t have made this site in the first place.
3. Head Over Heels
This very much piggybacks on the above post of just… being so happy and thankful to finally see honest, fair, and fun representation on stage. When I went to go see the show, I already had a grasp on what it was about (due to having edited and processed my good friend and fellow board member Hayley St. James’ piece about the show), but I wasn’t prepared for Mopsa.
Mopsa is a strong willed, knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it lesbian. She’s sometimes snarky, sometimes borderline mean, but at the end of the day, she’s not a bad person. I’ve never related to any character as much as I relate to Mopsa - in fact, I adopted a cat today and named her Mopsa, because that’s how much I love the character.
This theatre season has been very fortunate for women who love women, and if you ask me, it’s long overdue and something I am beyond thankful for.
4. Come From Away
Let’s be honest, it can be hard to be an American these days. I’m used to bracing myself when I check my phone in the morning, ready to see another headline about a school shooting or terrorist attack. Sometimes it feels like more days than not are spent at this computer, crying and having to remind myself to breathe as I watch a death toll rise at a bar, concert, or newspaper.
And on these days, do you know what I do? I turn on Come From Away. I’ve seen the show twice, once on Broadway and once on tour. While it’s a hard show to watch live because you can’t take a step back to pause it and breathe, it’s an important show. At its surface, it may be about Newfoundland and those people by the sea and their open arms and hearts. But on another level, it’s about all of us. It’s about how when some people will be bad, more people will be good.
It’s a much needed reminder that most people are, in their heart of hearts, good.
5. Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812
I don’t even know where to start with Comet. Where Newsies gave me the courage to travel the States on my own, Comet gave me the courage to specifically take on New York by myself. That’s not to say I’ve always made the best choices while by myself in New York City. (I once ended up in Times Square, at midnight, having not slept in 36 hours, with a dead phone. I then had to figure out how to maneuver the subways to get back to my Airbnb in Brooklyn. I did it, and I’m proud of it, but let’s just say my mother is not happy with me.) But, I have been there and back all on my own, and I’ve done it for the love of Dave Malloy.
Comet also taught me heartbreak, how to deal with the Tonys when they go so completely unexpectedly, and how to let go when shows inevitably close - even when it feels so incredibly unfair and all too soon. I am a stronger and better person because of it. Not only that, but Comet has also encouraged me to push the limits of what I can do creatively in making fan gifts for the actors. I am who I am because of Comet, and I am thankful to be that person.
This is a short list, but as I said, I just got a cat today and I want to go spend time with her, so I sign off here. In no way is this a complete list, because I’m just grateful in general for theatre, but these shows are special to me.
(Photo by Deen Van Meer)