The Summer '99 collection is titled Vacancies. I ran into the word in two different contexts during the time I was working on the collection, and each time the meaning struck a familiar chord with the material I was writing. Vacancies touches on how we connect as people -- good, bad, at times not at all -- with each other and with ourselves.
My first encounter with vacancies was in March of this year, when I began work on the first pieces of the new collection. Having recently moved to a new place where I knew absolutely nobody, I realized something: As we age, we get more settled and secure in our relationships and seek nicely regulated frameworks in dealing with others: our family, our friends, our extended social circle. It takes a lot of time, effort and commitment to keep our ongoing relationships meaningful, so there are only so many slots in our lives we would want to fill. Wouldn't it be nice if our lives were so stable and complete that we'd never have to put up the vacancies sign? Vacancies denote that awkward, painful process of having to replace someone in our life whom we loved, didn't want to lose, yet still did. I kept thinking of vacancies as our cycle of loss, healing and renewal that we go through in order to have people in our lives who are meaningful to us. Vacancies work both ways: We may be the ones trying to fill the empty slots, or we can be the ones asking to be a part of someone else's life. There is the danger of hurt, insecurity and rejection on both sides of the process. Filling them requires a lot of effort and trust from both sides, and it made me sad to realize that's why we seem to take that chance on others less and less as we get older. We, as people are at our best when we're connected to each other1. Maybe we shouldn't work so hard to avoid it.
My second encounter with vacancies was a
few months later, during the final L.A. performance of The Last Session, a musical that had a profound
influence on myself, as well as many others who saw it. Incredibly talented, dedicated
people gave their best to the show and never held back. For me, the most
exciting experience was to watch their performances evolve during the six months
the show spent in the L.A. area. "The singer and the song, that's what
we've become..." During that time I was
privileged to get to know many of them, and am intensely grateful for what they gave to
their audience. It was at the production's farewell party that I realized what a
wonderful, inexhaustible thing human creativity is. Even after everything that has been
written, played, sung, and said throughout our history, even drowning in the proliferation
of media, television, video, movies and the internet, there somehow still remain things
for us to create and say that are original, worthwhile and profound. And we're not running
out yet. There are still vacancies to be filled in our music, our literature, our art, in
anything that requires the ability to convey a message that feels new and original. Many
times that message can inspire others to create in turn, because we, creatively, are
connected to each other1. There will always be room for those who aspire to
create and dream. So create! Dream! We have vacancies to fill.
1 I was thinking of the lyrics of the song "Connected" written by Steve Schalchlin and performed at The Last Session. I felt it was a fitting theme for binding both aspects of Vacancies together. The key stanza is as follows:
Friends would come around and bring me little things
Say how much they needed me to live
They told me I would make it cause they said we were
Connected to each other
We should all be connected to each other
|"Connected" (written by Steve Schalchlin) © 1996 See No Evil Music and Lil Shack 'O Tunes. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.|
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|The Last Session's final performance -- curtain call: (left to right) Michele Mais, Jeff Juday, Bob Stillman, Amy Coleman, Steve Braverman. Photo by Roberta Z..||The Last Session's final performance -- pandemonium on stage: Cast members, director Jim Brochu (in horrible old red plaid bathrobe), producer Michael Alden (clapping) and production staff. P.M. Howard, who played the role of Crabby Old Jim in the Booth throughout most of TLS's production run, can be seen in the back row by the window. Photo by Roberta Z.|
Santa Monica Pier
Ed's Restaurant - 2 AM
singer - inspired by Michele Mais' performance of "The Singer and The Song" during the final L.A. showing of The Last Session.
to the muse
The above material contains references to The Last Session, a new musical. Book by Jim Brochu and music by Steve Schalchlin. "Connected" (written by Steve Schalchlin) © 1996 See No Evil Music and Lil Shack 'O Tunes "The Singer and the Song" (written by Steve Schalchlin) © 1997 See No Evil Music and Lil Shack 'O Tunes. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.