Ask me my favorite color and I will instinctively say green only because it’s my dad’s favorite color, but I’m not actually sure if it’s mine. Ask me my favorite movie and I will say Ferris Bueller’s Day Off but then immediately wish I had mentioned a more artsy movie, like Frances Ha or Amelie. Ask me my favorite musician and I will actually just implode. However, ask me about my favorite musical and I can give you a straight answer:
Sunday in the Park with George.
This past week, I caught some miserable cold, involving pounding headaches and coughing so hard I stopped breathing. I wasn’t able to read or really look at a computer screen, due to the migraine, but I still had my ears to enjoy some form of entertainment as I rotted slowly in my bed. All day, I revisited my musical theatre library, listening to so many stories simply through music. However, I listened to Sunday In the Park several times over. I had forgotten for a time how incredible this musical is, despite knowing that all Sondheim is inherently fantastic.
Though my affection for Sondheim ranges from A Little Night Music to Assassins, Sunday in the Park steals me entirely. In eighth grade, I was actually in a production of my beloved Sunday as a follies dancer and as a modern dancer to represent the chromolume. (Yes, I played a nineteenth century stripper at age thirteen, as well as a light show museum piece.) However, that was the musical when I decided I loved theatre. I hardly sang, nor did I have any speaking lines, but I still felt so involved and deeply apart of this performance regardless.
Besides the nostalgia for my early theatre days, I feel as if this show has stayed with me for many reasons beyond that. I identify so deeply with George Seurat. Though this is a fictionalized version of the historic painter, his persona is how I feel about being an artist. Granted, I am not a visual artist by any means, aside from some casual photography, but I think his outlook on art can be applied to all forms of art.
Though the majority of my theatrical training has been in acting, when I see a blank stage, I see possibilities. I see choreography and set designs, the changing colors of lights, actors performing amazing feats of theatre. I see the audience laughing and crying, the run crew fervently working backstage, the quick changes, and the amazingly synchronized transitions. I see an entire painting of beautiful and moving art.
However, art is not everlasting. It can change, evolve, or disappear entirely. Perhaps the appeal of visual art is that it is predominantly permanent, whereas theatre is fleeting. Every time I listen to the song “Beautiful” sung by George’s mother at the end of Act 1, I ache for time to stop and to enjoy what is beautiful right now. Yet George renews my faith in beauty. “Pretty isn’t beautiful, Mother. Pretty is what changes, what the eye arranges is what is beautiful.”
Theatre is evolving rapidly, into song cycles, abstract plays, and even encompassing spoken word. Theatre for social change is becoming increasingly effective and widespread. There is pull to small theater and away from Broadway. It never seems to stay still for a generation to absorb the beauty now. However, as George suggests, what makes theatre so beautiful is not its ability to change, but that these changes are carefully orchestrated by theatrical artists in all corners, and yet, they still affect populations simultaneously in new and old ways.
Theatre is powerful. Art is powerful. And the possibilities for art are endless. Like George, I envision these possibilities, which is exciting and incredibly infuriating and frustrating. Alas, that is consequence of art. However, I would not change that aspect of art, because like George, I revel in the possibilities.
“White. A blank page or canvas. His favorite. So many possibilities.”