I am in paperwork hell and therefore desperate for fun things to talk about. Therefore I am not going to talk about the 2008 election. Not that it's not fun - it's enormously fun, and at times sadly funny - but it's too much a blood pressure point for me and apparently a lot of the people who read this page. Long and short of my thoughts on the matter: it's all going to work out. Everyone breathe.
Instead, I want to talk about [title of show], which Cheryl and I treated ourselves to after a day of canvassing for Obama in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. You can read Cheryl's post about that here.
I did not know, going into this show, that I was entering a Fan Zone. Pieces of culture that have Fan Zones are different than others, though the circle is growing wider every day: it may not be the most popular movie, television show or play out there, but there is a strong band of devotees, who will show up every night and scream, post about it on their Facebooks, urge their friends and family to watch/read/listen, etc. I know about this kind of fan because I am one. One thing I truly love about a show will sell me on it for life. This is not usually because the show/movie/etc. deserves it more or is inherently better, but because it has struck the nerd nerve: if only one thing about it is one of the best things they've ever heard, they're sold. Of course, there's usually well more than one thing - but there's one moment that always piques the experience. It's Free Love on the Free Love Highway during the British version of The Office. It's "Seasons of Love" in Rent. It's Defying Gravity in Wicked. It's the fashion show on Project Runway, "Suddenly Seymour" in Little Shop of Horrors, the entire first season of Heroes, the end of season one/beginning of season two of The West Wing, the slide down the pole in Bridget Jones (the book), the what-will-she-wear-now game of Sex and the City.
(One doesn't immediately jump to mind with Harry, but that's really because the first book is full of all those truly imaginative twists on reality that it's like a series of wave peaks throughout.)
And, being one of these fans, and being familiar with the accoutrements of intense fandom, you know exactly when you're walking into a Fan Zone. If it's a live event, it's usually accompanied by a lot of screaming. This happened when we saw [title of show], a fabulous little musical about making a musical. I knew only that it was an "inside" ("meta") play, going into it; I wasn't even sure it was a musical. But as the lights went down and the roar deafened (it was the show's last week on Broadway) I groaned internally. The Fan Zone is almost unanimously a good thing for the material that is the object of the fans' obsession, but to newcomers it can make it hard to understand and enjoy that material. I wasn't sure I wanted to be part of a few hours of incomprehensible screaming that made me think I was a year too old to be a New Kids on the Block fan, and at one of their concerts. (Which I am only allowed to say years and years after being part of the screaming, and years and years after realizing how it can be completely obnoxious to those outside the Zone.)
Thank goodness, that's not how it played out. The show was, sincerely, one of the best things I've seen in a long while, and that happened well before the middle, when the real Fan Moment happened. Because for all the potential annoying character of a Fan Zone, it can be really useful. I was enjoying this charming show - self-aware, unadorned, a hilarious little reflection on creativity that played itself with honesty and no trace of pretension - when I knew we were about to get to The Moment. Why? The screaming went THROUGH THE ROOF. Cheryl and I looked at each other, eyebrows raised, because the woman onstage had just said, "Die, Vampire, Die," and she hadn't said it while simultaneously twirling flaming batons, juggling three apples and a live grenade, and shooting fireworks out of her sleeves, so why was everyone going crazy? Because they knew what was coming, and luckily this pre-emptive hype wasn't enough to spoil the moment.
The song is Die, Vampire, Die, and it's the best exploration of the ridiculous inner monologue that goes on while you are writing that I've ever heard. It's not all Finishing the Hat, it's not all sweet, melodic elixirs of endorphins caused by creation. No. Sometimes there are ugly gnomes playing twstie-tie with your confidence, inside your head, and it's annoying and petty and feels small. What did I call this phenomenon awhile back? Ahhh... Grogsnot! I had nearly forgotten about him. Yes, this is a song about Grogsnot!
Listen to this (it's the audio track set to a picture of the show's playbill, you don't have to watch), if you want to know just how silly, sad, funny, stupid, elating, and unglamorous creation really can be: