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Saturday, December 28, 2013

What would we do without Sondheim?

A few nights ago, I caught the last hour of an HBO documentary Six by Sondheim.  Unfortunately since I was late, I only got to see half of the show—3 of the 6 by Sondheim if you will.  As I watched this documentary about this very talented man, I was reminded of when I first saw one of his musicals.
 Years ago, I was flipping channels in the television and happen to stumble upon A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. I liked the title, it was unusually long. The opening song’s lyrics had such promise and grandeur as the star Zero Mostel sang in a baritone voice “Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight!!” I watched the comical misadventures of Pseudolus, enjoying the clever songs, such as “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid.”
I was about to write off that this was a just a silly, bawdy musical comedy, with only interest in tickling my funny bone. Then,  a duet with Michael Crawford (Hero) and Annette Andre (Philia) singing a beautiful song called “Lovely”. The melody sent chills up my spine and the lyrics were light and dreamy.  Being a pre-teen, I was totally buying into the swooning quality of this love song! I thought: wouldn't it be great if a boy sang these heartfelt lyrics to me, *sigh*!  Of course, the romantic mushiness didn't last, as soon as Pseudolus and Hysterium   got a hold of the song.
Nevertheless, each song was an integral part of the story-- it didn't seem out of place that Miles Gloriosus breaks into song “Bring Me My Bride.” In fact, the songs were like characters onto themselves, whether they be humorous, highly theatrical or heartfelt. Each was distinct and evoked a different emotion.
At the end, I saw in the credits music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Now I had identified this artist who was able to meld complex yet jaunting lyrics with musical notes that seemed timeless.  From then on, any time I had the opportunity to see a Stephen Sondheim musical, I jumped at it. Sweeney Todd, and Sunday in the Park with George became favorites as well. My husband even became a fan the same way I did—he stumbled upon Into The Woods on television and was lured into the enchantment, and he doesn't even like musicals!

In the documentary, Mr. Sondheim revealed one time he wrote a musical for profit only. He said he wouldn't do that again, and made a comment that he only writes out of love.  I was really touched by that comment, since it’s so evident in my favorite musical of his. After watching it, I was amazed how good a mood I was in after watching this show.  A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum will always hold a special place in my heart and I have Mr. Sondheim to thank for that.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Hats off to Mary Bailey!

When I first saw the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, like everyone else, I was touched by the story’s moral was everyone has a purpose in life. If one person in your life was missing, it would make a huge impact on the future.
However, that’s not the only lesson I learned after watching this movie.   As we know, George Bailey is the main character. James Stewart played the part well—he was very human and we empathized with him on his ups and downs of life.  However, there is another character that I found to be as good a role model if not better than George’s Everyman. This was his wife Mary Bailey played by Donna Reed with quiet dignity and presence.  I searched the internet and found I wasn't the only one that appreciates Mary Bailey.
From the beginning, Mary was a plucky (hey, that’s a word you don’t hear every day!), determined and resourceful person. She became the main component on transforming a rundown house into their cozy family home.  She was the one that was able to defuse the situation when George got annoyed with the children after his bank’s money went missing. When George went to the bridge with the intention to jump, it was Mary who went to all of George’s family and friends for their financial help to get him out of the terrible bind.
In a clever way, the director Frank Capra was demonstrating another lesson--there is always another method to go about solving a problem without being so drastic.  

At the end of the movie, we see that George absolutely adores Mary, showing more realistic affection than the typical movies of that era.  I say yes, he should love her—she is a remarkable woman.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Is it the thought that really counts?

I do so love reading articles that conjure up memories!
I recently read an article in O Magazine July 2011 (I’m a little bit behind!)  called The Cure for a Compulsive Helper by Diana Spechler.  The article was the author’s account of 30 days of mindful helping. She shared that there were times in her life when she thought she was being helpful, but since it was unsolicited, her help became almost to the point of meddling.  
I got to thinking of an incident in my life and how I identified with Ms Spechler’s well-meaning nature.
A few years ago, a manager that worked with my husband lamented that she didn't have many professional clothes. The owner was promoting her to another apartment complex that was larger and she wanted to look the part. She was petite like me, so my husband suggested that I help out. I had been working at an office for a while and had collected many business separates. I went through my closet and picked out a couple of my professional cast-offs.  The next time we saw her, I gave her the clothing. I felt good that I was able to help out on her quest to looking more professional.
Oddly enough, the later times I saw her, I didn't see her wearing any of the items I had given her.  I figured since I didn't see her every day and she may have been wearing them at these other times.
A few weeks later, she was getting ready to move to the new apartment complex and was holding a yard sale. We happened to be at her complex since my husband was the on call maintenance tech that weekend. As we walked by her sales display, on the rack of clothing were all of the items I gave her. My heart sank, disappointed that my generosity was completely ignored. Even though we saw each other many times afterwards, I never mentioned my hurt feelings to her, but it was always in the back of my mind.  
After reading this article, I reviewed this past incident again. I didn't feel the sting of the hurt feelings since many years have come between, so I was able to look at it from a more discerning angle. 
This manager may have had some hurt feelings of her own. For instance, maybe she was offended that I would assume she couldn't afford or she was incapable of purchasing professional clothing. I had worked in offices where it was common practice that someone would either bring in their cast offs and give them away or sell at a very low price. I had assumed she would like to save a few dollars and take the clothes I offered, never once considering that it was a rather intrusive gesture.  Also, she may have had a different fashion style than I had. Instead of having these clothes hanging and wasting away in her closet, she decided to sell them with no malice intended.

I decided to stop carrying around the hurt feelings, and exchanged them as hope she made a few bucks on her yard sale!