Monday, October 19, 2009

Fact or Fiction

Theatre is so much better than a self-help book for processing grief. For me.
This weekend I saw the play Rent for the second time in several years. The first time, I thought it was a nice show. This time it was a memorable and moving experience. Every theme of the play flew past me unnoticed save one: the responsibility of living well. It is not a show about gay people or AIDS, even though it is. It is about life, about choosing to spend our time on what matters.
I did not expect the floodgates to open during this show, but , hello, everything reminded me of Maura. One of the main characters, aptly named Angel, was Maura: talented, kind, loving, the peacemaker. After one year, Angel dies, leaving his friends to figure out what Angel's life and death taught them of the importance of life, love, and relationships (and, I add, God).
Maura's last 525,600 minutes were, as the song suggests, measured in love. I was taken by surprise to see Maura's high school friend, Jennifer Ross, soulfully sing the solo in Seasons of Love. I felt like I was in church, and someone please pass me the Kleenex. Really. I think the people behind me should have asked for their money back because I was probably very distracting. As Jennifer finished, I rose to my feet, aas did so many others, and the applause reverberated throughout the theatre.
After the show I had to compliment her--and she confided that the director had scolded her for singing the song without passion. So she searched her heart and started over, singing to Maura and for Maura and about Maura. And she got it. And I got it. And the whole audience got it. And it was for Maura. I'm so glad I got to be a part of that.
Jennifer said that Maura taught her how to sing Gospel music. Isn't that funny? The little blond chick teaching the African-American diva how to sing? I think Jennifer exaggerated, but she insisted that she had a very small voice before Maura drew her voice out of its shell.

Theatre is so much better than a self-help book for processing grief. So are novels.
I don't know why. I'm not opposed to inspirational books that speak to grief and healing. I'm reading four of them right now, all good, all helpful; all gifts from friends who were helped themselves by one or another of these books. But I find that it is within fiction that I find a character or two that I can identify with, and I can cry or see things differently or find comfort. Biographies that are written by excellent storytellers (certain books of the Bible being a terrific example of the latter) satisfy that same need.
Here is an excerpt from The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. I have read this paragraph--the whole chapter--- at least a dozen times over the course of reading the book this month. Simple, but accurate:
There followed, for each of them, good days and bad, and often Edgar's best moments coincided with his mother's worst. She could be cheerful and determinedly energetic for days on end and then one morning he would walk downstairs and find her hunched at the kitchen table, haggard and red-eyed. Once lapsed, nothing could deliver her. It worked the same with him. Just when normal life felt almost possible--when the world held some kind of order, meaning, and even loveliness(the prismatic spray of light through an icicle; the stillness of a sunrise), some small thing would go awry and the veil of optimism was torn away, the barren world revealed. They learned, somehow, to wait those times out. There was no cure, no answer, no reparation.
I love that line: They learned, somehow, to wait those times out. Yes, that is what it is like.
I think of the Biblical stories of Hannah, Ruth, Mary and Martha (the sisters of Lazarus), Mary (mother of Jesus)--women who prayed and believed and mourned and did not, even under extreme pressure, lose faith.

Yes, right now, stories of all genres help me grieve.


Elsa D. said...

Beautiful. A hug for you and for Jennifer

Elsa D. said...

I love you free rice game, I keep coming back to your blog to play I just put the banner onmy blog. It is better than playing spider solitaire!

SLY said...

Theater and Books...I agree Erin. Some times its the only way I get understand life. Sometimes its the only thing that can get through to me. I definitely understand exactly what you mean!!!!!!

Jim Coffey said...

Is RENT showing in Houston ?????
We are huge Rent Fans. Knowing that one of Maura's friends is singing the Season's of Love solo would make it even more special.

If it's still playing shoot me an email so we can go see it this weekend.

Lydia Medeiros said...

Where is Rent playing? That's awesome that Maura's friend was in it. Rent is a great show. I've always loved it and I think I remember making you all listen to the whole soundtrak as I explained the song...and listening to
"Will I lose my dignity?
Will someone care?
Will I wake tomorrow
From this nightmare?"
over and over and over again when I was 17.

Now I sing
"in truths that she learned
or the way that he cried
in the bridges he burned
Or the way that she died?"
over and over and over again like a broken record.

Sounds like we're on similar paths mom. I agree. Theater and books. Lucky me. I'm an actor and a writer. Lucky lucky...i guess...

Anonymous said...

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle - an achingly wonderful book.

God bless, Erin

Sue G said...

It never ceases to amaze me who and what God will use to get our attention. It could be a book, a play, a song. It could be the loss of a beautiful and gifted soul whose inner beauty matched her outer loveliness.

How much richer we become in the things that matter when we finally stop and listen. When something grabs our attention and we simply listen.

It is then we begin to truly hear.

Thanks, Erin. As usual, your writing is wonderful. I am especially impressed by the writing talent of your daughter Lydia. I read her blog faithfully, and her ability to express what she is thinking and feeling is magical. I pray that she finds peace that surpasses all understanding. Her pain is palpable.

Anonymous said...

i would also like to know where jennifer is starring in rent! i knew her as well.

Erin said...

It was at Lone Star College and the run is over. Sorry.