Last weekend was my theater weekend. Friday night I sat on the second row in the Paramount and wept and clapped my way through "School House Rock Live." Sunday afternoon I sat in the local community college theater and laughed, wept, and clapped my way through "Footloose." Yes, I wrote wept. And, no, School House and Footloose are not tear-jerkers for most people. The emotion comes from the environment. I sit in that theater seat, the lights darken, I wait in breathless anticipation before that massive curtain knowing in just seconds it will part inviting me into a new world. Oh, how I love it. And that's when my eyes brim with the tears-even before the first word is uttered, before the first note is sung.
I think it all started when I was in junior high school, and my brother played Will in Okolohoma. I believe I can sing every single song from that play. We went to all of the performances. I witnessed my brother giving Ado Annie the infamous "Okolohoma Hello", a real surry with the fringe on top wheeled onto the stage (minus the horses-guess you got to draw the line somewhere in theater), and-I'm getting goose bumps just thinking about it-Curly beginning at the very back of the theater and singing and strolling his way down the aisle singing "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" with no microphone what so-ever. You better believe I could hear every note that man sang. Not to sound old fogey-ish here, but these cordless microphones the actors are using now aren't an improvement in my book. Used to, performers had to project their voices. It was part of the art of theater. Pardon me for a moment while I step down from this soap box and get back to waxing on the thrill of the theater and, specifically, School House Rock.
Could it be that some of my passion for writing comes from these entertaining cartoons I watched on Saturday mornings all those years ago? Perhaps my love for adverbs came from "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your adverbs here!" or describing a scene in one of my books is because I can unpack my adjectives? Do I tend to make my sentences too long because some place in my subconscious dances to "Conjunction, conjunction, what's your function?" And lest I neglect the nongrammatical ditties, I must tell you I cried during "Figure Eight." I think it has to do with the meandering, almost sad tune punctuated by the song ending with infinity. I think that's the theologian in me who is moved by the mystery of the never-ending. And without School House Rock, would I have ever known that 8 turned on its side is the symbol for the doorway into "always"?
I've read a lot of good stories, but I think there's something to be said for the story that finishes with an open-ending. I don't mean no resolution. Nothing infuriates me more than "To be continued..." I'm talking about a story which draws us into the plot or the issue so much that we ourselves become a character, and even when we get to the end of the book, we continue on into the "always" of the story. Maybe that means we imagine what happens next. Maybe that means we change something in our own lives because of what we've read there. Maybe it means we stretch our horizons here or there because of what was on the printed page. Now, there is the figure 8 rolling to its side-the story becomes never ending because we've picked up the plot and made it our own. And on it goes into always, into infinity.......