Monday, September 21, 2015

Family Talk

Ok. It's time for the talk. Maybe not that talk. However, as an adult who never experienced that particular moment with her own parents it is time for someone to say, "Let's get a little uncomfortable." 

When I started to think about writing this post I had a difficult time because I had so many thoughts. It started with a brainstorming on Stoner Chick's lines, "Why do I cry myself to sleep?" and "She's the horse I never got for Christmas."

A large discussion and theme that developed in the 80's was the absent parent and the latchkey kid. Latchkey kids, spotted by the house-key worn around their necks, often a product of two working parents or a single working parent spent much of their time home alone to fend for and look after themselves and possibly more children. One can only imagine this would widen the communication gap between parents and their kids. Furthermore, adolescents have a difficult enough time with an experience of belonging in a world that tells them walk it off and climb your way to the top, toss in absent parents and we are being primed for disconnection. 

And yet it seems as though this generation may be the one to say, "Enough is enough." Let us interrogate some more integrative practices. Let this interrogation also improve our family lives. Was alienation and heightened competition the necessary progression through which we had to move to make this discovery? 

The marijuana movement itself is about much more than self-indulgence. In past and more ignorant years, I would have viewed its use as an escape away from connectivity, a way to alienate oneself, and avoid confronting personal issues. Similarly to other recreational drugs both legal and illegal. While that may be true for a handful of people who also may have addictive personalities it is not true for all and not a primary characteristic of cannabis. Many people use it because of the experience of openness and greater community. A function it has served for decades. That is the lens through which I would like Stoner Chick to view the world.

(Personal plug: hemp is a great alternative that we should accelerate the use of in our consumer products to start healing our planet) 

However, I think it would be unwise to depart from the likely reality that though she uses for openness and connectivity it is likely a reaction to alienation. After all this was the era that began to paint the picture of the clueless parents and dog-eat-dog competition. 

So fight the good fight to get families back to families, and keep the parents involved. If there is one thing that New Line Theatre does well it is getting people into uncomfortable places and spaces. As an audience member don't let that be left like the experience you take away from any horror film, the scare for the adrenaline rush and then it is over. Use the theatre, and THIS show as an indicator for the things you are afraid to talk about with your own loved ones. I am encountering every day at rehearsal things that I am uncomfortable with, particularly the things I never would have been able to discuss with my parents and don't know if I could to this day. Well, enough is enough. It is time to TALK.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hello. Victoria Valentine, I play Girl 2: Stoner Chick in the ensemble of New Line Theatre’s upcoming regional production of Heathers: The Musical. Welcome to this short blog introduction to  my explorations through this process.

Why this show now?

My senior thesis from my BFA undergraduate degree continues into a career thesis; an investigation into the role of musical theatre and theatre in rehumanization. I coined this term for myself as an entrance into the interrogation of the responsibility of theatre as a live art form to reconnect humanity. "How can my work in performance give at least a little bit of the audience back to themselves?" 

So for me, Heathers is a natural next step. It was released in ‘89 as a response to a decade of “Me” opposing “We” culture. Pieces that are also so deeply connected to nostalgia can give artists an effective entry into opening up audiences as well. Too often we see nostalgia being used basely for ticket sales, and yes we need people in the seats for the form to survive, but we must also remember as an active choice how we are electing to function as a form. If we do that audiences will come. (It is especially exciting for me to be engaged with New Line Theatre in my first production here in St. Louis; their history is one of challenging their audiences and giving life to stories that should to be witnessed and may not otherwise have the opportunity to be due to commercial popularity.)

Heathers butts heads with the glamorization of violence in American popular culture, and utilizes suburbia for its setting to get at us where we live our everyday lives in one of the most emotionally heightened and tumultuous environments there is, high school. The effect of the original movie on Laurence O’Keefe (book writer/composer/lyricist) was “cathartic. It helped me realize I wasn’t alone; helped me deal with my own adolescent bewilderment and resentment and hope; and taught me to think about how to treat people and myself better” (“A Modest Proposal, or, You Want Me To Adapt What?”), a beautiful moment I would be grateful to share with audiences.

Will this experience still ring true in 2015? What does this show mean in a post-Columbine America?  These are questions that O’Keefe had in development and I can't wait to investigate them myself with the audiences of St. Louis who will take the leap with us; I dare you.