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2015-04-27 - 2:20 p.m.

I am home and happy to have today off work after a very busy weekend.

Friday it was delightful to accompany one of my girls to the VA Allstate Honors Chorus rehearsal and the preview concert.
REMARKABLE! Very beautiful!
She was so very happy and I am SOOO happy for her that she was able to attend. Logistics of getting her there were a bit of a challenge but her Dad and I worked together in making it happen.

Nice when we work together as co-parents! I feel we have come a long way in recent years on that goal.

Afterwards, I dropped her off with Dad,picked up a bike left at school (from when the other daughter and I biked to school last week) and then got ready to travel. I couldn't see her concert on Sat as I had already planned on traveling to NY to see Soren's show. Not having spend time with Soren in over a year, that planned trip was priority.

I left early in the morning on Sat and arrived at my son's school in time to catch the matinee performance of Balm in Gilead.
My brother and sister-in-law from NY also came to see the show.

I am finally finished with analyzing Balm in Gilead. The show was wonderful, Soren's performance and those of his classmates remarkable in both realism and capturing empathy and hopefulness with the audience connecting with characters who it is difficult to connect with. What I think makes this play different from Waiting for Godot or NO Exit is that there is hope , even if the outcome the Shakespearean tragic one.

The show happened to be up in Chicago this month as well. Here is a review that I thought was helpful in explaining how this hope was the thread of the show that is what the audience is captured by:

I have to say I am VERY GLAD To have seen the movie with Diana Ross years ago in which she played Billy HOliday depicting the singer's struggle with heroin addiction PRIOR to having seen this show. Had I NOT seen that , this show would have been as jarring and difficult to watch as that movie had been for me. But having seen that, and REnt and Gia I was emotionally not shocked and sent into an emotional challenge of being reminded of just how terrible the reality of addiction is.

So I could watch Balm in Gilead without the shock and emotional upset at the depictions of drug use. I can underand how many watching this show could just say they DID NOT Enjoy it (even though it was immpecably presented in its performance. ONe of Soren's lovely friends said as much. She DID NOT Like the show and was honest about that, as she said "because of the drugs". ) I can understand how for some, it would be uncomforatable and painful and they would wonder WHY WOULD I WANT TO spend time going to a show that is so difficult to watch?

I already faced and issues and fears I have in response to being faced with the truly terrible reality of how awful addiciton is- therefore I could really pay attention to the show without being distracted and de-railed by my OWN emotional response .

Some viewers could not get much out of a play like this if they can't get beyond being shocked at the contents. IF one is sensitive to the actual reality of the depiction of addicts being so shockin it would totally BLOCK any possibility of the actual HUMOR and GOOD THINGS about the play.
It would be uncomfortable and even PAINFUL to watch and WHO WANTS TO GO TO THE THEATER TO EXPERIENCE PAIN?

I was trying to figure out why in the end I ENJOYED the show whereas I CAN'T STAND the existential works of Waiting for Godot and No Exit.
All three deal with the same themes in a way.

Yet there was something I saw in Balm in Gilead I don't really see in the other two shows that are favorites among the intellectual and acadamia theater circles. All three are brilliant , innovative and thought provoking- yet I think it is that there is HOPE to be found in Balm in Gilead which we the observer latch onto. It is the connecting with the HOPE that makes up empathize and root for the characters. It is the belief there is a POSSIBILITY of moving out of the despair which is what captures us and engages us as an audience to even CARE about the characters. It is the believe that they are TRYING, even if they can not succeed, to envision other possibilities than the life they are stuck in.

For some reason I feel like Waiting for Godot mocks having that faith that there is something better. No Exit, likewise seems to give the message of hopelessness.

I feel like the intent of the playwrite Wilson seemed to be to convey the problems of society without necessarily seeking to solve them , yet in doing so it seems to also convey the message that these forgotten people DESERVE OUR ATTENTION and should not be ignored. I feel like the desire was to provide a documentary , on the stage, with some effort and not only accurate depiction but the beginning of understanding of who these very real members of socity, most often overlooked, really are.

There is a representation given which is realistic of the addicts and prostitues, and uses humor in a way which is not really ever mocking to a point of HURTING. The use of humor in the play is absolutely wonderful.

The Shakespearean clown acts as narrator, with the help of the convention of the also Shakepearean chorus who occassionally interject song that helps explain the world of the NY cafe we are observing.

So as an audience we laugh at the clown, who is being funny, share in the lightness of the chorus, and experience a range of emotions that lead up to the final tragedy of this small cafe's inhabitants being stuck in this rut.

I believe Heroin is in fact one of the greatest tragedys of out time. It is playing out in middle class America currently. This depiction of the 60s cafe scene at first viewing had me blocking my own suspension of disbelief as I thought it seemed a too much of a cartoon style characature.. too exagerrated.. too flamboyant and not representative of the actual subtlies of the reality of the addict- who in today's world may be the clean cut suburban straight A student that starts to spiral, or the super successful actor Phillip Seymore Hoffman who none would have suspected had such trouble as he was continuing to produce great work, or the lawyer or judge active in our courts , churches and our communities, the teacher who lives on your block, the IT Exec in Leesburg busted for the Oxycotin that the Post Office noted shipped to his home.

So in watching the first performance of Balm in Gilead I had trouble with that suspension of disbelief as today's heroin addicts do not look like those heroin addicts of the 60s.

I WANTED The play to be realistic. I was distracted at my own critisicm that the young student actors did not capture the subtleties of addiciton in that afternoon show.

However, when I went to the SECOND showing, I think in part as there was a better performance by the company (toning down of some of the exaggerations and a bit more realistic in the depiction of the addicts), and in part as I got over my own judgement and lack of ability to suspend disbelief as I realized THIS IS NOT WHAT HEROIN ADDICTS LOOK LIKE TODAY but it perhaps IS a Fair and accuate description of THAT CAFE IN NYC in the 60s when the addicts far gone WOULD have congregated together. At those hours in a NY Cafe in Greenwich Village it was not those just being pulled into the web of destruction of addiction but rather those who are already truly far ensnared who would be there. So in watching the show for a second time I was convinced very quickly and truly just pulled in without a distraction of my own criticism. The show was then believable and pulled me right into its story, its moment.

I was emotionally moved and there were tears in eyes of not just me but other audience members when the final tragic end came after the Sat night performance.

It really hit one in the gut, as only great performances can do.

It was truly a great show on Sat. night.

One can see Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet, and even though KNOWING the tragic end, if it is a truly great performance one will be moved. They are hard pieces of work to perform as if the actors are not convincing, then they fall flat. If the actors do not capture us as an audience, we might enjoy a show but we won't be crying at the end.
That level of artistry was there for the whole ensamble Sat night. We were transported as an audience to being flys on the wall of the cafe and we came to CARE about what happened in that place. We were TOUCHED by the tradgey of these people's lives.

I feel like that was really the point of the play.

I feel like Wilson WANTED society to be MOVED and to CARE about what happens to these street people who are trapped in their own cycles.

Understanding is a first step toward empathy.

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