May 6, 2020

Tiger King’s Joe Exotic

he hour grows later, I’m finally getting around to the sideshow of human comedy known as ‘Tiger King’ on Netflix (which is very definitely one of those ‘only in America ‘ subjects. I’ll have to admit this car crash of humanity is somewhat hard to turn away from but I can only stomach one episode at a time. There’s only so much human effluvia I can process at any one time). I spelled myself by binging the new series Hollywood this past weekend, which started out promisingly enough as a sort of dramatized Hollywood Babylon but was undone by some weak casting of pretty faces with minimal talent and a finale episode that just ended up making me mad as it basically discounted the years of pain endured by various minorities in the Hollywood Dream Factory for a pat happy ending that wasn’t earned by the story. MNM generally doesn’t review television, but I might have to make an exception for that one.

It can’t be all Covid 19 all the time even though sometimes it seems to become all consuming, not just to me but to all of us. There is still art and music and sunshine and small children at play and pets and good food. We can’t necessarily enjoy them in the way our culture has socialized us to believe is proper, but human society is infinitely malleable. People have thrived and lived and laughed and loved everywhere from the depths of the Sahara to the frozen tundra of Lapland. We’ve developed ways of being shaped by local environments – geographic, climatic, and microbial. We’ve made it through other plagues and we’ll make it through this one. People misunderstand the theory of evolution and the survival of the fittest. The fittest isn’t the strongest, the biggest, the richest, the smartest. The fittest is the most adaptable to the change that is inevitable in any living system. We like to think of our lives as static but they’re full of change all the time. I was born the year of the Cuban Missle Crisis and when I see dramatizations of that era, it looks as foreign as an 18th century costume drama. The changes just usually happen slowly enough for us to take them in stride. This one has been so fast and so wrenching, that we’re all still in a state of shock and trying to process just what has happened and where we are.

The numbers of cases of corona virus continue to climb steadily which, of course, means that the powers that be are working steadily to end the one weapon we have to combat a pandemic of this type, isolation. It’s pretty clear to me that those who run our society, nearly all of whom are unelected and not accountable to the public in any way, have come to the conclusion on their conference calls that the populations that will be hardest hit are expendable and the dead in more important (to them) populations, will be unfortunate collateral damage – the butcher’s bill that must be paid at the end of the day. The complete rolling over of government institutions to this philosophy is, to me, a betrayal of the most basic of reasons for government to exist, the protection of the citizenry and I am afraid that as time goes on and the death toll continues to mount (and every single one of us will lose someone at current trends), the strain between the will of the populace and the will of the power brokers may lead to some very unexpected effects. Add to that a society full of Veruca Salts who seem to have no concept of delayed gratification.

Rehearsal for Cabaret – January 2020 – four months and a lifetime ago

The Birmingham music theater types, knowing that performing live is out for a while, are all in communication with each other and working out alternate ways of being and sharing. We’re working on a group choral number each singing our own part at home and the combining the videos. There’s talk of remote readings, remote cabaret entertainments, remote drag tutorials. There was an extremely sobering webinar yesterday put on by the National Association of Teachers of Singing, the American Choral Directors Association, and other musical groups looking at what is known about viral spread and singing. The news isn’t good. There is no safe way to sing with other people without risking significant spread between performers and even to audience as the very act of singing creates the aerosolized droplets that the virus hitches a ride on . Wind and brass instruments do the same thing. A world without group singing – no opera, no musicals, no national anthem at the ball game, no marching band at half time, no hymns at church. It seems pretty bleak. I tend to be an Eyore by nature but in this particular case I’m going to trust to human ingenuity that someone, somewhere is going to solve these issues medically or artistically or stylistically in some way. In the meantime, I am so sorry for all of my friends who perform, especially the professionals. An opera singer is the equivalent of an Olympic athlete, stretching the abilities of the body to the nth degree in service of culture and humanity. What do we do to support them if they cannot practice the craft they have dedicated their lives to perfecting? How can we, as a society, support them – especially as we live in a society that tends to denigrate the artist in general as effete at best and parasitical and destructive at worst. I’m going to miss performing myself. It has become a huge piece of who I am these days, giving me a way to process my life experiences in service of a greater goal. Rehearsals are my social life. Without them, I’m just an aging queen home alone with equally aging cats and my thoughts. Well, if I never do perform again, at least I went out on top. My four roles in the 2019-20 season – Mr. Pendleton in Choir Boy, the Ansager in Politically Incorrecct Cabaret, Will Dearth in Dear Brutus, and Herr Schultz in Cabaret were among the best opportunities I have ever had and I will forever be grateful for this period in my life. I proved to myself that I’ve still got it and I think I surprised a few people who are only used to me in small character roles as well.

The move creeps on. Each step delayed and complicated by issues brought on by Covid 19. Progress is being made. Tommy’s wig studio was packed up by Red Mountain Theater Company and taken to storage where it will be kept until their new performance venue is ready for furnishing, and then it will be the basis of their wig department. This gives me an empty space so I can start getting the discards with useful life out of the house. I’ve pretty much decided which furniture is going and which is not. Now I’m going through closets. I have two major projects left in the sort – the kitchen and the basement which I saved for last as I’m not looking forward to that process in the least. In my more maudlin and dramatic moments here alone at night, I envision myself ensconced in the new place and, as the sun sets, closing all the windows and shutting myself in like Lavinia at the end of Mourning Becomes Electra, alone with my dead and waiting for the end. And then I think, no, life goes on. I’ll get the new place set up and, assuming I’m not terribly unlucky genetically, I’ll pass the test of Covid 19 eventually along with the rest of society and there will be music and laughter and parties and friends. You’ve got to hang on to something.

Stay safe, stay well, wash your hands, and remember social isolation isn’t about you, it’s about others and being a good citizen.

2 thoughts on “May 6, 2020

  1. I’ve never seen Tiger King. I’d rather be reading. Or walking with friends. Good news! Everyone in your dad’s building is being tested today. Hopefully, after that, we’ll be able to increase activities in small thoughtful steps. I do, someday, hope to go for a walk with my grandkids and daughter in law.

    I have been enjoying your writing. Thank you for being a bright spot in my morning.


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