Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Marie Christine

As some of you know, theatre has long been a passion of mine. However, since I've started to work on the 1999 Broadway musical, Marie Christine by Michael John LaChiusa and directed by Graciela Daniele (it's an adaptation of Medea), I'm starting to realize why I chose the plays of dead people rather than the modern musical (which is a particular favourite of mine) to study as my life-long academic interest.

You see, when I study the plays of dead people, although parts of their manuscripts may be missing or corrupt, I know for a fact that everyone else has the same amount of information on the text as I do. Thus, I can interpret within reason, and Euripides is not going to do an interview later that tells me how Wrong Wrong Wrong I am. Now, perhaps, we may dig up something else later, but nobody can expect me to know that.

When I work on modern musicals by living composers, I know that although only the CD and music book have officially been released, millions of people have seen this show when it was running. I also know that LaChiusa or other production people or cast members can tell me that I'm Wrong Wrong Wrong if I make an assumption about text or visual aspects I don't have. I also know that there's a nice little video in a super secret room in New York that can contradict anything I might guess about those bits I do not have!

So naturally, I requested permission from the proper theatre company for a copy of the script (and naturally, that company is in the U.S. and wanted a check for $16--did I think to bring my American checkbook here? No. Of course not.) and am now begging for permission to get to see that super secret little video in New York (if I can schedule it in time!). That seems so innocently simple, but I cannot even begin to explain the circles I've been running trying to get the proper information and contacts. Because, you know, the one thing the libraries here don't have is access to super secret information about American musicals. I know, I know--what was I thinking writing about an American musical when I'm in England? I don't know. But I do know this is one of the most brilliant modern adaptations of Medea. There are so many delicious nods to the Greek mythology--it is not just a story about a mother killing her children because their father is a bastard. There are so many other parallels! This work is rich with Medea, and it has not been written about enough.

Anyway, yes, copyright--that is why studying dead people is so much easier. When we don't know something an educated guess/interpretation is sufficient. Nobody can expect any more from you! And these dead people don't have copyright!

Also, I can't recommend this musical enough. LaChiusa gets compared to Sondheim often and accused of "having no melody"--but it's just because his melodies are more complex than the average Andrew Lloyd Webber show, for instance. I have been listening to this CD every single day for two weeks, and I still find new and wonderful things in it (not all of which are useful to my paper, but that is ok). There is also quibbling about whether this is a "musical" or an "operetta," but let's be honest--can anyone actually define the difference? And since La Boheme was on Broadway, I think people are starting to realize the difference between the musical and the opera is fairly superficial. This is a great piece of theatre, and I only wish it could have stayed on Broadway longer.


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