Last night I took my nephew and my sister to see the Idaho Musical Production of Schoolhouse Rock Live!
I have to start by reminding myself that I'm no longer living in Seattle. I saw Wicked there at the Paramount, and it was an awesome show. What I saw last night was staged in a charter school in Caldwell, Idaho. So I have to keep telling myself that I shouldn't have the same expectations. Actually, I believe that people should be excellent wherever they are, but I'll save that discussion for later.
That being said, I found the overall experience enjoyable. There were some noisy teenagers sitting right behind us that insisted on holding conversation during the performance. I'm not sure how best to approach the decline in etiquette I am witnessing in society, but it is a question that will not leave me alone.
The play didn’t have much of a storyline. It was constructed simply as an excuse to perform Schoolhouse Rock songs on stage. Normally I would find that unforgivable. In this case I have so many fond memories of eagerly anticipating and then enjoying my childhood Saturday morning ritual that I find myself overlooking a very glaring defect.
Apparently most of the audience had similar memories. I estimated about 100 people in the makeshift auditorium, possibly 120 but certainly not much more than that. And no more than 10, including my nephew, were children. Such a low percentage of children in the audience surprised me, especially considering that the musical revolved around songs for children. But it was also a Thursday showing, which means getting up early the next morning for the regular school/work routine. That may have had something to do with it.
And yes, the auditorium was very makeshift. The stage entrance was simply a rectangular opening at the end of a gymnasium with a slanted roof of corrugated sheet metal. Two portable loudspeakers sat at each side of the stage.
The acoustics were therefore awful, which may explain why some of the sound was not quite right. A live band provided the music, and that helped a bit. But some of the voices on stage just didn't sound right. Wendy Inman's voice appeared better suited to the opera than the musical stage. And Tristan Fishman, I'm sorry but your tenor just doesn't suit the likes of "Conjunction Junction". Maybe I've just heard the original too much, but it just doesn't sound right without a deep baritone voice delivering the lines. And that's sad considering Tristan's acting was among the better of the group.
Other voices were incredible, which is really saying something in light of the bad acoustics. Of particular note are Mary-Michael LeClaire and Tamara Hess. Mary-Michael seemed a little stiff in her performances, but I simply ascribed that to nervousness. Her voice during “A Noun is a Person, Place, or Thing” was incredible. If she could bring her composure on stage up to par with her voice she would be amazing. Tamara on the other hand seemed more comfortable on stage. And her rendition of “Unpack Your Adjectives” was better than the original.
Christopher Purdy, who played the lead role of Tom, was also excellent. I loved his rendition of "The Tale of Mr. Morton" at the end. The song was crafted when Schoolhouse Rock experienced a rebirth, and it has always been one of my favorites. He did a really good job with that.
There wasn't much to the stage, but given that the whole affair was little more than an excuse to sing favorite childhood songs, there didn't need to be. I did enjoy the costumes, especially the animal masks that the children wore while the group sang "Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla". They were awesome. And the child playing Interplanet Janet, whoever she was, did a really good job.
Again, it's not the Paramount in Seattle, and there is no real storyline that demands a suspension of disbelief. But if you love the songs or have fond memories of watching Schoolhouse Rock as a child, then this show will provide you with a satisfactory evening. It did for me and my company.
[Editorial Note: This book review also appears on Goodreads.com where I gave this book by Srinivas Rao 3 out of 5 stars.]
In my search for positive influences, I learned about this book and decided to order a copy. I read it the same day I received it. It's a quick read and very power packed with so many thoughts that I either had myself or now realize I was in the process of developing.
Rao hits it out of the park at the start. "There are plenty of things I had thought would have already happened by this point in my life. If I had told the 20-year old ego-driven version of myself how things got derailed, he might think I'd lost my mind. . . . But it's only through experience that you gain wisdom and knowledge. These are just some of my observations of a life that hasn't gone according to plan."
And those observations key into a lot of wisdom about living a life that you choose to live. I love Rao's idea of resisting the plan that society or your culture or whoever or whatever places upon you and living according to the plan you choose. If you want to follow the herd, that's fine with me as long as you do so consciously. Too many of us are simply dumb sheep, dumb to any different way of thinking and therefore any different way of being.
And make no mistake. Rao knows about being unmistakable.
Rao and I share some views on being unmistakable. I don't think that unmistakable means you are one of the greatest, most legendary people to walk the planet. I think unmistakable means you are making your contribution to the world (whatever that is) and you are comfortable with that. You don't care what other people think about you or your choices. Rao definitely is right in line with that thinking.
But we don't agree completely. Rao simply expresses his thinking in a very undressed fashion. He is very loose in his language. To me, being unmistakable doesn't mean living without conscience or a commitment to a moral or ethical standard. It means becoming the real you within that moral or ethical space.
I applaud Rao's focus on providing authentic content --- ideas and thoughts that represent who he really is and the contribution he wants to make to the world. The substance of those ideas and thoughts inspire me. At the same time I don't agree that presentation should be sacrificed at the altar of authenticity or that we should completely ignore how we say what we say. Rao doesn't seem to have given much attention to that, given not only his comfort with profanity but also the occasional grammatical, punctuation, and other editorial errors that appear in his book.
For example, Rao could have used the word authentic instead of saying no-bull&$%@. But no, he chooses to use no-bull&$%@ over and over and over again. Authentic means the same thing but provides a much better presentation.
I know that some people will resist me here. They will say that Rao's language is the language of the real world and that, given the whole point behind his ideas is the need for all of us to be real, therefore Rao's language is actually appropriate. If that is the type of world you most aspire to live in, that is your choice and you can justify living in it however you want.
I want to live in a better world, one that empowers and liberates me. Debasing, profane expressions that reference excrement do nothing to empower or liberate me. Our bodies produce excrement, and what do they do with it? Absorb it back into the system? No, they work every day to get rid of it and with good reason: It doesn't belong inside of us.
The ideas that Rao presents are truly ennobling and liberating. Again, I find them inspiring. His diction, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired. The language he chooses to express ideas of empowerment and liberation should be just as empowering and liberating. Alignment between content and presentation maximizes the power and influence of the entire package. Power and influence decrease in proportion to any misalignment.
Furthermore, being unmistakable should never be an excuse to ignore a devotion to craft. When you write you are practicing a craft. It's not just speech in print. I agree with Rao that we need to forget the gatekeepers, and the rise of electronic publishing is a great example of putting that idea into practice.
Unfortunately, many indie authors rush to publication without giving due attention to some of the services provided by the gatekeepers in the traditional publishing world (editorial services being one of the most obvious). So many do this that the whole alternative system gains a reputation for delivering very poor quality work. If this book is representative of his work as an author, Rao seems to be a part of that crowd. Again, if that is the world you want to live in, that is your choice. I choose to aspire to a better one.
I would love to give 5 stars to Rao's book, but given the reasons I just elaborated I can't do that in good conscience. Rao's ideas are truly inspiring. I just wish that the packaging was as inspiring as the content.
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