Even the Darkest Night Will End and the Sun Will Rise: Les Misérables.

Okay, friends. The Kony 2012 conversation is, by no stretch of the sub-cranium, ceasing.* While the internet-fad-ness of it may dissipate, i am making this public pledge to you here and now to do my best to keep you informed of updates i think pertinent. I love Uganda with all of my being, and i sincerely hope our discourse is not an end.

But, in lieu of the enormous amounts of literature i’ve been consuming and small amounts of it i’ve been outputting, i did not post something that i intended to last Thursday afternoon. For it was last Wednesday night that i treated myself to a night at the theatre; as mentioned last week, a touring Broadway company production of my absolute-until-death-do-we-part-favorite musical of all-time-until-oblivion, Les Misérables, was in town. And while initially i was invited to go with some friends, work schedules got all mixed-up and no one was able to go with me. Undeterred and unwilling to miss a chance to see a show i hadn’t experience live since i was nine years old, i booked a ticket. By myself. In Connecticut.

Understandably, last week i didn’t want to interrupt the flow of our conversation on Kony with chatter about musicals and mastra-dates,** but … it’s midterms. I’m exhausted and i just want to talk about escapism and theatre and frivolity right now.

Going to the theatre alone was certainly full of firsts but, thankfully, one without hiccups. Parking free and well-lit, they hadn’t misplaced my tickets, and there were no extraordinarily tall folk occupying the seat directly in front of me. I arrived almost an hour before the show started, being somewhat of a compulsive on-time-type-a-lady, so i spent the better part of it wandering around the Bushnell Theatre in downtown Hartford.

Outside the Bushnell Theatre!

And lemme tell ya, the place is swank. I’ve seen some lovely theatres in my day, but this one was a diva among the stars in your multitude. When i took my seat, found in the second-to-last-row of the balcony, i found myself in awe of the building itself. I always love it when theatres have character; the homes i made in the blackbox and stadium-seating style performance areas in high school epitomized “character.” They were endearing and quirky and drenched in histories of dark one-acts so obscure Edward Albee himself would be impressed – or aligned with the memories of so many to-be-giants having sung their hearts out on that very stage long before.

This theatre, though, was a character of her own. The elaborate décor along the walls and ceiling made my neck hurt from gazing. It was like sitting inside an enormous, intricately painted jewelry box. I felt small and insignificant – that is, until the curtain rose and i was one with the gods (and heaven is near (am i pushing this references too far? (impossible!))).

as close-up as i could get from the edge of the balcony!

after the show.

 Les Misérables is, at its core, a show about resilient faith in the face of a bleak and unforgiving world – and while the stories of such unyielding belief in goodness and the light move me to unladylike levels of sobbing-my-eyeballs-out-dom, that bleak and unforgiving world paints the story in such artistically realistic hues. And the re-staging of the performance is pure theatrical brilliance, conveying with the dressings of the show such contrast. The vivacity of the score by Boubil and Schoenberg have never ever been so beautifully matched by the set, costumes, and aesthetic of the piece. Through incorporating elements of Victor Hugo’s original paintings into projection-driven set backgrounds and blocking, the story takes on a new dimension in its visual impact. The profundity of Gavroche’s bravery – and tragedy – are deepened in the newly-conceptualized barricades scene.

And this hardly even touches on the extraordinary talents of the cast; Enjorlas’ voice was so divine i scarcely believed him to be human (though his curly blonde locks’ real-ness convinced me well enough to not suspect alien vocal invasion). Eponine and Fantine were pitch-perfect in their character choices, singing abilities, and gut-wrenching acting. Grantaire made me hate the students’ folly – and Marius made me understand why Enjorlas was a man worth dying beside.

But most of all, there was Jean Valjean.

Throughout the whole of my life – even longer than Harry Potter – this musical has been with me. And in my life there are so many questions that somehow seem wrong  i have empathized with different characters most deeply in different time. In some ways, it has always been Javert; the tragic, misguided and broken villains always woo me in ways that make me question my neurotic tendencies when cast in alternate lights. When i first flattered myself to think i was in love, it was Éponine; when i was seven and didn’t quite grasp the concept of the show, i loved the Thénadiers more than anything. And as i grow and change and come to know each character differently, i don’t relinquish any love i had for the others – but it does change.

And this show, there was not one, but two people with whom i felt like the earth moved in a way that made our consciousnesses parallel; Jean Valjean, portrayed perfectly by J. Mark McVey, and Enjorlas, played by Jeremy Hays. With Enjorlas, it makes perfect chronological sense: he is a passionate, somewhat zealous, convinced student who sees only the quest. I won’t be so bold and self-congratualting to say we have much in common, but the student-martyr complex is certainly something I empathize with (on a perhaps more muted level). This Friday, as it so happens, is Rachel Corrie day, and if you’ve been with me since the start of my blogging endeavors, you might recall that she is one of my beloved – if not more complicated – heroes.

But Valjean. Valjean was just love.

Which, at the end of the day you’re another day older, is what the show is all about. Love, transcending all adversity, all misery, all pain.

So as for the mastra-date? Yeah, totally worth it. While i may have unnerved my theatre-attending neighbors with my blubbering and program-clutching, it was a surprisingly transcendent and beautiful experience to go.

And i would not have missed this show for anything in the world, weird looks for solitude included.

current jam: thisthisthisthis.

best thing in my life right now: spring break is so freaking close it is tantalizing.

*In fact, i just made a video blog furthering the conversation if you care to have a look.

**mastra-datenoun; to take oneself out on activities usually appropriated for couples to engage in, such as going to the movies, eating  fancy dinner, or sitting alone in the tippy-top of the balcony bewailing Gavroche and clutching onto a bag of tissues like your life depends on it. Austinian root, of the roommate genus.

On My Own.

While it may be a little-known fact in my life here (meaning in the internet TARDIS online) there is a story i love with the same fervor and devotion i have for Harry Potter. The format of this tale, though originally bound in book form, has been with me for my entire life through something unique to words encased in precious pages. Since my childhood – in fact, since some of my earliest childhood memories – the musical adapted from Victor Hugo’s masterpiece has painted a backdrop to my inner and exterior life.

I am speaking, of course, of Les Misérables.

It might seem – well, frankly – okay. Let’s be real. Les Mis is hardly material appropriate for a six year old to listen to on repeat with such frequency she goes through three Compacts Discs by the age of twelve. War, terror, suicide, unrequited love, poverty, wrongly accused over-punished criminals, treachery, and a steaming pile of misery as only Hugo can deliver. Les Mis is, easily, the most complicated and intricate modern musical in existence – in plot, musical composition, and in subtext. It is so elaborate that every time i have listened to the soundtrack in my humble nineteen years, i find something new; be it meaning, musical decision, or enlightened understanding of the story, the story’s breadth captures the whole of my being.

I’ve not been quite so public with my passion for this musical as i have with, i don’t know, SherlockDoctorWhoHarryPotterJohnGreen every other unhealthy relationship i’ve developed with fictional characters or story lines. In some ways it is because, despite my best efforts, every insignificant blog post i slave over does little justice in my mind to these “obsessions.” (It’s in quotes because the word dirties my mouth with its negative connotations. Also, i’m in denial; i’m fully aware of this, at least).

At the risk of sounding horrifically redundant, though, my love for things like Potter and John Green may be intensely personal – and yet is supported by community. For the vlogbrothers, it’s the nerdfighters who are made of awesome and with whom i can talk about intellectualism and the celebration of discourse through social media. It’s a shared love for philosophy as professed by angst-ridden teenagers in his collected works. In the case of the Boy Who Lived, i’ve been dressing up with scars on my head and a wand in my hand at least two or three times a year since i was seven (and i was only characters from the books for halloween, uh, twice). Clutching hands in movies over wordless scenes, hopping from foot to foot in the line for the final pages. Potter may exist in my mind as my own, but this love is upheld in a community of like-minded freaks.

Les Misérables is not supported by such a community. Well, at least not for me. Sure, i spent 70% of every day in high school living and breathing and thinking about theatre, but even then i rarely spent the hours i’ve devoted to unpacking Alaska’s motives or Snape’s devotion mulling over the Bishop’s charity or Fantine’s tragedy. The musical, for me, is of equal weight and measure in the art by which i interpret my truth as aforementioned arts – but its also been for a much smaller community.

It’s my mother lovingly explaining to me the PG-version of the plot at age seven. It’s Becca and i generating stage directions for our eventual elementary school production of an abbreviated version of the show (sadly, our efforts never came to fruition). More intimately, it is singing along to Eponine when i was fourteen and fancying myself in love for the first time. It is Javert’s tragedy. It is Valjean’s redemption.

The only reason i am poorly articulating this now is, well, i wanted to process and there was none to process with. In an act ironically so symbolic of the musical’s meaning to me, i am going to see the 25th annual re-staging of Les Misérables on Wednesday night. Alone.

It was not, initially, intentional; a dear friend of mine let me know the show was in the are at all. Alas, our schedules conflicted and so she couldn’t accompany me – but the lure of seeing the so highly acclaimed reinterpretation of the story so beloved to me since my youth was inescapable. With a little encouragement from the roommate, i called the box office and claimed the last ticket available for Wednesday’s show. Though first filled with trepidation at the prospect of walking into the glamour of the theatre, alone, for what is promising to be the most depressing and beautiful and gutted-out-longing show, i’m slowly warming to the idea of a night alone. In a room of strangers, there will be nothing between me and the music. Call me crazy, but this solitude gets more appealing by the minute; while there won’t be anyone to analyze each detail of the show with after curtain, the musical will be – in a totally selfish and esoteric way – only for me.

In the last year, i’ve been taking more and more of my what my roommate most aptly and crudely and brilliantly refers to as “mastra-dates.” Yeah, they’re pretty much exactly what the name implies: taking yourself out as a treat in an activity socially expected to be done with a partner. Going for noodles in the town over-the-hill, seeing a film, taking a walk on the mountain. Sure, there’s no foot-popping kiss in the rain at the end of the night, but there’s also no horrifically awkward conversation about what you’re going to do with a religion major when you graduate, either.

The older in soul i grow, the more i live into my introverted-ness and the more i seek out times to replenish my solitude in mind. Part of this is college; living in a dorm guarantees that those hours spent on my own in a house with no one around when i was younger are obsolete. It’s lovely, but exhausting. And, being the educated young feminist that i am, i don’t need to wait around for a potential partner to take me out – nor is my worth determined by whether or not i’ve got someone to share the popcorn with in the movie theatre.

So, damnit, i’m going to see Les Mis on my own. I’m going to ball my way through all of Act II without a thought for trying to impress anyone around me. Sure, the drive will be a little long and a little lonesome. Undoubtedly, i’ll text Becca at intermission with incoherencies like: “GAVROCHE. MY HEART. THE FEELINGS. BECCA.” or, better yet: “WHERE IS THE BINDER WITH MY CHARACTER SKETCHES OF ENJORLAS AND COSTUME IDEAS? CLEAR YOUR SUMMER SCHEDULE, THIS CHILDHOOD DREAM IS GETTING F$@#ING REALIZED AND YOU’RE MY MUSIC DIRECTOR.” And, yes, the most isolating part of the night will be when i want to turn to someone after curtain and share that look of the deep, my-soul-has-taken-flight-for-these-past-three-hours-but-now-to-resign-to-reality eyes paired with a heaving sigh. In some ways, though, i rather relish the idea of walking out with no company but the music in my ears and thoughts in my heart.

But my soul will still be taking flight. And this might be the wings it needs in this winter slump. I’ll just need to remember to bring my own tissues and bottle of water.

Wish me luck.

current jam: “on my own” from the 10th anniversary cast recording.

best thing in my life right now: the above. also, cats.

things i did elsewhere: revamped muh tumblr. there’s a new travel page, if you’re so inclined. also, a vlog about how freaking awesome coretta scott king was.

Captured and Imprisoned Again: A Lefty-Trombonists Tale by the Sawktrombone.

Captured and Imprisoned Again:

A Lefty-Trombonists Tale by the Sawktrombone.

I am not Lizzie McMizzie, and this is a hostile takeover of Wandering Writes brought to you by the Socially Awkward Trombone.

OK, so it’s not really hostile. In fact, I was invited here in what was probably the biggest mistake Lizzie has ever made…

Now you’re wondering who I am and how the heck I know Lizzie McMizzie. Well, it’s a long story, and I can’t tell you how tempting it was to just turn this post into a long and embarrassing story about Lizzie and Her shameless childhood antics. Alas, I will spare Her the humiliation and give you the cliffs notes (I’m saving the REALLY crazy stories for Her wedding).

Lizzie moved to my neighborhood when we were in the first grade. We rode bikes and built forts and put on plays like all normal children who have ambitions to stage Les Miserables and Jesus Christ Superstar at the age of 7. I was a crazy child, but Lizzie was unusual. In that sense, She was (and still is) way more outgoing than myself. Yes, I loved musical theater, but did I want to act? No freaking way. Hide me under the stage please.

I have watched Lizzie grow through the years. I stood by as She tested out dozens of middle school names. I watched her go from a fashion disaster wearing rainbow ensembles and one opera glove to a fashion pioneer (AKA unintentional hipster). It was this sort of outgoing nature that made me positive that Lizzie was going on to great things. She never has cared about what people think of Her, and She remains grounded in Her beliefs. This brings me to why our friendship is so unusual.

Although I would admit to sharing a pretty strong moral foundation with Lizzie, as well as a love for old British men, most of our views do not align. In many aspects, we are polar opposites. Yet somehow, this friendship works. We have chats on all subjects, and I am probably the only one who is allowed to make fun of the fact that Lizzie is enrolled in an all girls school. Why? Because She knows that no matter how many times I joke about Her sexuality, I support Her in Her efforts to become an enlightened and cultured individual no matter how much it makes me laugh.

I also think it my job to bring Her head from the clouds by being as horrible and ignorant as possible to remind Her of the real world. But let’s face it, I’m a completely harmless goofball. So will this blog be a parody of McMizzie? Absolutely. I will shamelessly poke fun at Her (as a matter of fact, I already have).

That intro was way longer than preferred. Whoops. I shall now jump into my area of expertise. My blogs are generally about socially awkward situations that I mix in with music and trombone players. Today I will be diverging a bit in honor of Lizzie’s blog. I will be writing about trombonists and music, but it will be a kind of tribute to Lizzie’s style. I mean, just look at the title.

The Oppression of Left-Handed Trombonists

 Dearest friends/readers/ducklings,

 It is with a heavy heart that i alert you to an injustice that will affect you, dear reader, in no conceivable way.

A few of you may be surprised to learn that the trombone is an uncommon instrument, but it is more likely that you are momentarily leaving this page to search Google images for a trombone.

Now do you know what it looks like?

Good. We shall continue.

Historically, the trombone has never quite fallen into the category of “sexy”. Yes, there is a fair amount of innuendo that follows the trombone, but upon close inspection, one realizes quickly that the trombonists are the reason their instruments are seen as awkward.

Trombonists are awkward. In past blogs i have made it clear that anyone who decides to pick the trombone has been born with an awkward gene, or has had their childhood poop jokes suppressed due to the socially unacceptable nature of poop. But of course, if you like poop jokes you probably have been born with some sort of genetic predisposition to be awkward.

Poor genetics can be considered a disability right?

Let’s consider the genetic disbility that brings about red-green colorblindness. People with this disability are having new technology developed to make it easier to live in a world that is missing color. Trombonists born with awkward genes are left to fend for themselves in a world where avoiding eye contact is social suicide.

Life is hard.

Society enjoys pushing unpleasant things out of sight. For starters, trombonists are placed at the back of the orchestra. Not a big deal right? Trombones are loud. But did anyone stop to wonder why the trombone is loud? Maybe it’s because trombonists had been trying to get attention for years and when one of them got the bright idea to start playing loud for acknowledgement, the government placed the trombones in the back. All the government needed was a cover excuse that wasn’t “they’re too awkward to be seen by paying customers” because the media would have reported that as discrimination.

Government? you ask.

Yes. Government. It’s a conspiracy. The amount of awkward people on this Earth is regulated by a government that acknowledges the need for awkward people to play the trombone. If there wasn’t a need for trombones in every orchestra, all of the awkward people would have probably been exterminated by now.

The awkward people are kept in cells under the basement of every orchestra hall in the country. It is here where they are trained to play trombone and encouraged to speak to other “Awkwards” to improve their social skills.

Trombonist 1 (1): “I play trombone.”

Trombonist 2 (2): “I play trombone”

Trombonist 3 (3): “I play trombone”

1: “You play trombone?”

2: “I play trombone.”

3: “I play trombone.”

1: “I play trombone.”

There is rarely improvement.

When the need for a trombonist arises in an orchestra, a member of the stage crew, with the help of a uniformed official, reluctantly picks a person to place into society as a trombonist.

Now the real question is how the “awkwards” get captured in the first place.

Basically, if a child decides to pick the trombone of h/is/er own free will, s/he is doomed. After high school or college, anyone who picked the trombone as a child is whisked away and hidden under an orchestra hall. Even if the kid quit the trombone after a year, s/he is doomed to the same fate because s/he had the initial attraction to the instrument. Picking the instrument means you must have the awkward genetics.

One will occasionally find people who escaped the relocation. They keep their history under wraps, but it is difficult. Basically, if you know someone who is awkward, that person managed to avoid the government kidnapping by choosing occupations with limited social interaction. All of them played trombone at some point in their lives. I beg of my readers to PLEASE not turn these people in. If you know an awkward person, be friendly and accommodating. No one should have to go through what most trombonists suffer at the hands of the stage crew that poke through the cell bars under the theater. But of course, i don’t expect you to be accommodating. Go ahead and pander to the color blind. Throw the “Awkwards” under the bus.

It is now time to address the second part of this post. Lefties.

If there was ever a group that was oppressed, it was the lefties. Just a few years ago they were seen as the devil incarnate. Children who were naturally left-handed were forced to learn to write with the right hand. This often required school teachers to use razor wire to tie the left hand behind the back of the student as they learned to write with the opposite hand. Razor wire was used in the hopes that if the student couldn’t learn with the right hand, the left hand would be sliced straight off. This left (haha punny) the kid with no choice but to use the right hand.

Today, our society is just as bad as it was when there were frequent hand lacerations, but it manages to hide prejudices better. The world is still tailored to right-handers. For example, walk into any classroom. Most, if not all, of the desks are for the right handed. If there are any left handed desks, they are shoved to the back in hopes of keeping the devil people as far away as possible. Most computers are for right handed people, as well as most musical instruments.

Righties enjoy significant discounts when it comes to buying golf clubs, baseball gloves, and other sports equipment. All of the lefty stuff is priced way higher.  Hot water is on the right, cold on the left. People are better when in their “right mind”. When people are correct about something, they are “right”. Instead of saying “OK”, the word “right” is often substituted.

“Left” has bad connotations.

I “left” my stuff there and it was stolen.

S/he “left” the party too early and missed the goodie bags filled with 50 inch HD TVs.

Sandy was “left” at the cemetery to fend for herself among the awkward dead people that tried to kill her with trombone music and ghostly flatulence.

So where does this leave the trombonists that are left handed? Well, it’s funny, the awkward gene must also tie in with left-handedness. The percentage of trombonists who are left handed is higher than average. Still, they are a minority.

The left-handed trombonists tend to be the last people released into society. It would just be too dangerous. They get “left” behind so to speak. When a lefty trombone is released to an orchestra (as a last resort) they are embedded with a GPS locator and are essentially put under house arrest. They can play in an orchestra, but they still have to live in the theater. When the orchestra goes on tour, a trumpet player is assigned to the lefty trombone. This trumpet player is in charge of keeping the lefty out of trouble.

Trumpet players love having power of over people, so they enjoy being the babysitter of the lefty trombone. Usually the lefty is forced to stand perfectly still on snails and trumpet spit while the trumpet player alternates between blasting in h/is/er ear and playing the “Pictures at an Exhibition” excerpt over and over and OVER. No one could possibly imagine a worse torture than this.

There is one particularly terrible result that comes out of monitoring the lefty-trombone individuals.

You know those crazy people that think a chip has been embedded into their arm by the government? The ones who hide when planes and Nazguls fly overhead?  You probably just thought of them as homeless psychos in need of ostriching (ostracization), or John Nash.

(it should be noted that this had to be drawn with my right hand, as the mousepad was designed for right-handed people. prejudice.)

Wrong.

Listen to these people. They are escaped left handed trombonists. Somehow they managed to leave the side of their trumpet lord, and the GPS locator chip means that they are constantly being chased down. Help them stay free!

This is the end of my societal rant. I urge you all to help free the trapped trombonists as i am destined to be one when i graduate college.

Thank you for pulling through to the end of this. It should be noted that Lizzie did a guest post on my blog while I did a guest post on hers. So if you are now missing the McMizzie, feel free to hop over to socially-awkward-trombone.blogspot.com.

Lizzie: Thank you for allowing me to guest post today. I hope the reputation of your blog will not fall into the depths of Mordor after this. I wish you well, and I shall never forget your 4th grade offer to house my dark-haired family should there be another Holocaust.

-The Socially Awkward Trombone

Comment question of the day (see rules for the giveaway if you need a refresher!): What is the most awkward family event you were ever forced to attend?

Yesterday’s Winner: Morgan, for sharing the link on Twitter! Congratulations, Morgan, i’ll be mailing you the postcards next week.

A side note about the giveaway: if you choose to follow this blog as an entry into the contest (thanks!) you must let me know in an additional comment! This is so i can keep track of all of your beautiful faces. Or icons. Whatever.