?dark? ?(4????Punk Abstraction? ????? ?? ???Rating: 4.5 (44 Ratings)??538 Grabs Today. 26786 Total Grabs.
??????Preview?? | ??Get the Code?? ?? ???????????? ????Easy Install Instructions:???1. Copy the Code??2. Log in to your Blogger account and go to "Manage Layout" from the Blogger Da BLOGGER TEMPLATES AND TWITTER BACKGROUNDS ?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Finishing the hat

Stephen Sondheim is one of my favorite composer/lyricists in the world of musical theatre. I find his shows to be thought-provoking, powerful, romantic, and funny all rolled into one. You never know exactly what you'll come across in a Sondheim show; from a murderous barber to a mixed-up fairy tale, it's always an adventure.
One of his shows, Sunday in the Park with George, details the life of artist George Seurat. Throughout the first act, you're able to watch him working on his famous painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. But you also see him seeking--and ultimately losing--the heart of his young mistress, Dot. It is clear to the audience that Dot wants to love George, but is unable to because he is always so distant, so involved in his art. George explains this from his own perspective in a moving number, Finishing the Hat.
George is busily working on his painting, trying to create a picture, trying to paint a hat. He knows that Dot is going to leave him, and in a way, he is unhappy...but he can't experience the situation fully. As he begins to describe, he can never see the world the way other people do, because he's always "looking through a window" to see how the world looks. Here's the last few lines of the song:

"And when the woman that you wanted goes,
You can say to yourself, "Well, I give what I give."
But the women who won't wait for you knows
That, however you live,
There's a part of you always standing by,
Mapping out the sky,
Finishing a hat...
Starting on a hat..
Finishing a hat...
Look, I made a hat...
Where there never was a hat."

I think most artists will agree that art changes your view of everything. George, perhaps, is an extreme case--but isn't it true that inspiration can spring from life's worst tragedies?
Here's an example. Last summer, I had a huge falling out with my best friend, and it was pretty much decided that we should cut off our friendship. It was not a friendly break-up, and besides the natural sadness at losing a friend, I was shaken up confidence-wise. I wondered if I could have done something different, if I had really been a good friend up until that point, etc...even though my family and other friends continued to assure me that it had NOT been my fault, it still took me awhile to get my confidence back.
But throughout this whole experience, there was a part of me standing back, watching the drama play out, saying, "Wow. This is SO weird. I've got to make sure to remember this for a character someday."
...which is quite bizarre, if you think about it. In the middle of this big emotional upheaval, I was considering my art. I was flipping through character motivations, wondering what play I could perform where I could use this emotion--or, alternatively, what story I could craft around the situation.
As artists, we've taken on a unique challenge. Our art requires inspiration; inspiration comes from real life. Although not all art is tragic (I would argue that most isn't), it is true that most art needs conflict. And conflict isn't usually something as simple as needing to mow the lawn. In writing, conflict is the meat of the story that keeps the readers on the edges of their seats, hoping against hope that the characters will make it through okay. In theatre, it's what keeps the actors from shuffling around the stage unmotivated, complaining halfheartedly that their cat meows too loudly. In the storytelling arts, conflict is the reason the art exists. Without it, stories would be boring.
So, as artists, we almost have to take a step back from our own troubles and ask, "How can I use this?" Not all stories arise from real-life situations, but the emotions you use to create your art must be real to you. If you can't relate to the character(s) you're creating, there's no way the intended audience will be able to.
And think about this: no one else has experienced a situation the way you have. Sure, my break-up with my friend was painful, but it was mine--I am the only one who will ever go through that particular situation in that particular way. So, as an author and actor, I am the only one who can give that particular emotion to my art. I'm not saying I'm the only person in the world who's broken up with a friend, but I am the only one who's broken up with that particular friend, in that particular way, at that particular time. So...shouldn't I use that particular emotion to make something truly unique?

"Studying the hat,
Entering the world of the hat,
Reaching through the world of the hat
Like a window,
Back to this one from that."