A woman seated behind me today at the matinee of For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday: "I wrote to Mary Martin once. She wrote back to me—on Peter Pan stationery."
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In this On Being podcast I listened to yesterday, Nikki Giovanni mentioned that she has a "Thug Life" tattoo on her arm. It's a tribute to Tupac Shakur. I thought that was pretty cool. When I got home I looked it up and I thought to myself, I'd like to be cool like Nikki Giovanni. Maybe I should listen to some rap. ("Some rap.") Setting aside the enormous fact that Nikki Giovanni had a sincere, non-trivial reason for getting a tattoo to honor someone clearly meaningful to her, I know nothing about rap music: I'm a middle-aged, middle-class, middle-of-the-road woman who listens almost exclusively to 80s pop, Neil Diamond, Bruce Springsteen, and showtunes. No artist of today wants me as a fan, dragging down their hip quotient. Is "hip" still a word? Trend-wise, I'm the lamest of the lame.
At some point in the past couple of years I actually bought into this narrative about myself, which is both intellectually stifling and soul-destroying, and which has stopped me from doing a lot of things that would help me develop as a person and also, obviously, open up new avenues of joy, culture, etc. I talk about wanting to learn new things all the time, but very little of anything ever takes me out of my comfort zone. This is a blind spot and a fault line for me, but I also have phobias about A) jumping on bandwagons and B) adopting artificial likes in an attempt to keep up with the zeitgeist, because people who do that make me sad. I have done it myself and it has made me sad. I have no good antidote for this yet but I'm working on it. As with most things, I just need to find a way in.
Also I wondered about listening to rap in the same way I used to wonder if maybe I'd be okay eating cheeseburgers a couple times a week, since that's what Lorelai and Rory ordered at Luke's all the time and it didn't seem to be doing them any harm: on the one hand, it almost seemed realistic as a pursuit, and on the other hand most dreams are just thoughts you do nothing about.
I'm sorry if you ever thought I was smart.
Then late yesterday I saw this Eater tweet about Chance the Rapper working the grill at Nando's in Chicago to raise money for his non-profit organization that supports local arts and public schools. Chance the Rapper grew up in Chicago! He supports Chicago arts and Chicago public schools! I found that very charming, so I downloaded his 2016 album Coloring Book to listen to on my way down to Playwrights Horizons today. New horizons & all.
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Cut to this afternoon: I had just reached the song "Same Drugs" when I walked into Playwrights Horizons.
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Sarah Ruhl in the author's note in the program: "I wrote For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday as a gift for my mother (for her 70th birthday)." It's the story of five siblings who return to their childhood home in Davenport, Iowa, as their father is dying. The oldest sister, Ann (Kathleen Chalfant), played Peter Pan in a local production as a teenager and the role has followed her throughout her life: she wants nothing more than to never grow old, to never leave, to never lose, to never say goodbye.
Over the course of an evening the siblings argue about politics, religion, and what it means to be an adult. Their arguments are good-natured and comfortable: there's no rancor, no dark secrets tucked away, no regret, and no menace. They loved their parents and they love each other. They've only come together to learn how to let go. In the final act, as they all sleep in their childhood beds one last time, they take their places in dreamland—in Neverland. One by one they rise to act out their roles in Peter Pan and start to fly, and one by one, slowly, they come back down to earth as they realize their grownup lives are still there waiting for them. They can honor their childhoods, but they grew up for a reason. It's time to go home.
Sarah Ruhl has become my chosen playwright over the last couple of years. Her voice is tuned almost perfectly to my pitch: a little melancholy but not somber, a little literary but not pretentious, a little magical but not wifty. There are always tiny miracles in her plays—in In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play), it was a moonlit winter garden; in Dear Elizabeth it was letters falling from the sky; here it's pixie dust, a Tinkerbell, a couple of harnesses and a floating bed.
She grew up in Chicago, by the way.
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When the play ended, I went downstairs to the bathroom, as always, and hanging on the back of the stall was this: