Books: The Lawgiver

July 18, 2013

I had heard of Herman Wouk but never read any of his books. When I saw his latest book, The Lawgiver, in the library, I couldn’t even think of the title of any of those books of his I hadn’t read. But the name meant something, and I decided this looked like a good book to read to see if I wanted to read more.

I saw from the cover that Wouk had always wanted to write a novel about Moses, and he had finally found a way to do so by writing about the making of a movie about Moses. I enjoy reading novels about Biblical characters, so that was another reason to read it. And it’s short – even without knowing any of his books I remembered that they were long.

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Sobbin’ Women

April 25, 2010

I vaguely remember when the TV series “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” came out. I never watched it – it sounded like it would be all about either romance or sex, neither of which interested me when I was twenty. I had never even heard of the musical film it was based on.

When auditions for the musical “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” were announced at church last summer, I wondered why in the world our drama director would want to do that musical. When auditions were cancelled a few weeks later, I gave it no more thought. Then a few months ago, I learned that it would be the spring musical at the high school, and that our drama director from church was now director for the high school musical.

In the program, she explains that she has long wanted to produce this show. “It teaches us about the value of hard work, commitment and treating one another with respect.” She had to wait for the right group of students who could do it well, though – and this year she realized she had that group. This year’s senior class is certainly blessed with an abundance of talent in music and dance. (Not all the major parts were played by seniors, but a large number of them were.)

I had little idea what to expect, other than a fight between the brothers and the other suitors. Our older son, who plays one of the suitors, had told me all about that fight scene. (He takes one of the brothers and keeps finding himself on the floor.) The songs didn’t seem too memorable (at least not to me – to my music-loving son it’s another matter). The amount of humor surprised me – including the number of jokes that went over our ten-year-old’s head.

I also had no idea, prior to the performance last night, that the musical was based on a short story, “The Sobbin’ Women” by Stephen Vincent Benet (perhaps best known for his short story “The Devil and Daniel Webster”). From what I have just read, Benet’s story was a parody of the legend of the rape of the Sabine women, and also that the musical was based very loosely on Benet’s story. So now I realize that the reference to the Sabine women was than just an excuse for the brothers to kidnap the girls they wanted to marry.

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Classic movies: West Side Story

July 7, 2009

After watching this DVD last night, I wasn’t sure I wanted to post any kind of review. The ending is so sad and so bleak, and just thinking about it seemed likely to start the tears flowing again. But after a good night’s sleep I can think about it a bit more objectively.

This had long been on my mental list of classic films I ought to see someday. When I am actually looking for a movie to rent, however, I’m looking for entertainment – usually something a bit more escapist, with comedy and or adventure but not such serious themes as permeate West Side Story.

My older son rented it (if you can call it a “rental” when it’s free, that is – Family Video gives free rentals for A’s on report cards), and as I had never seen it I decided I should watch it. I’ve always liked some of the musical numbers – we played “Maria” and “Tonight” in my high school orchestra, and besides being beautiful music they were easier to play than some other contemporary music, such as by Aaron Copland.

I had a general idea of the story, both from having read it growing up and knowing that it was based on Romeo and Juliet. The ending was hardly a surprise, therefore, but being so affected by it was. I don’t remember how old I was when I read the book (i.e. the script, in book format) – perhaps too young to really understand it. I remember reading Romeo and Juliet in ninth grade and finding it boring, and thinking how foolish the two teenagers were to throw away their lives that way.

Perhaps it is because I have more experience of love and of loss in relationships that I now find it so moving. Perhaps it is the difference between reading words on a page and seeing them brought to life by talented actors. Perhaps it is because West Side Story succeeded so well on so many levels (as evidenced by its numerous Academy Awards).

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High school musicals (not Disney’s)

April 25, 2009

When I was in high school, I had no interest in being in the yearly musical production. I had acted in school plays in younger grades, but drama was really not my strength or my interest. I liked to sing, but I had chosen orchestra rather than chorus as my musical focus in high school. And I wasn’t a good enough violinist (in large part because I didn’t practice enough) to be in the pit orchestra for the musical.

I never even attended the musicals – at least not while I was in high school. When I was home on spring break from college and found out they were doing Camelot, I went and enjoyed the show, and was proud of what my high school could do. What I didn’t realize at the time was how common high school musicals were.

My husband, an excellent singer and a pretty good actor as well, performed in high school musicals – but of course I never saw them, not having met him until we had both finished grad school. I knew he had gone to a high school even larger than mine, so it didn’t seem surprising they could put on those sorts of productions.

Then when he had graduated from seminary, and we were traveling to interviews at churches looking for a pastor, in one town they invited us to the high school musical being presented that night. It was a smaller town than I had grown up in, but they did an excellent job, and I was quite impressed. I began to realize that what I had associated primarily with my own high school must be a much more widespread tradition.

Here in Muscatine, not only the high school but both middle schools also put on a musical each spring. My son has had a part each time – more because of his love of music than his interest in drama, and I am again impressed each time with both the talent these young people have and the quality of the production, evidence of a high level of commitment not only from the students but their parents and the schools.

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TGIF

April 18, 2009

I know, it’s not Friday. I was too tired last night to post. TGIF means “Thank goodness it’s finished.”

I just completed a big project. Now, I didn’t know it was that big when I volunteered to do it. This coming weekend is our high school’s annual musical theater production, and for once they’re doing a musical I’m familiar with, Meredith Willson’s The Music Man. As a parent of one of the actors (Constable Locke), I looked for any area to help with that fit my interests and abilities.

The past two years I have limited my efforts to good intentions (never fulfilled) to help with the set, and bringing soda pop and cookies to be sold at the concessions table during intermission (this is required of all cast parents). I justified my minimal involvement because I am already busy enough with Cub Scouts and teaching Sunday School – plus my son’s interest in the drama program is limited to its musical aspects.

This year I volunteered to help with a show choir invitational (directing buses in the parking lot, which seemed within my capabilities), and even – reluctantly – helped supervise students at another show choir competition (this had the advantage of getting me in to the performance at no charge). When it came time to sign up to help with the musical, I was happy to find out there was a need for someone to type the program. I made sure I was at the front of the line to sign up to help so I could do that instead of feeling obligated to try to sell ads, organize volunteers, or help with costumes or makeup.

Of course, putting the program together turned out to involve quite a bit more than typing. I discovered that I had to figure out how to arrange the ads (some of which were not submitted in Word format as per stated specifications), compile a list of scenes and songs from my son’s script, and get it all put together in a form ready to be run off on the school Xerox machine.

I am reminded again why I prefer “followership” positions to leadership positions. I’m told that the cast members did a good job of getting their work done – writing out their bios for me, and learning their lines and songs for the production. But the adults are another matter. Of course, they’re all volunteers like me, each busy with work and family, trying to squeeze in the time needed for this major project along with all their usual responsibilities.

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