Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Walls of our choosing, or built by someone else?

Say what you will, but I went to Stratford without my family knowing on Friday. It wasn't really that I meant it as a secret. The eldest were at a dance in Brampton and the younglings were being taken care of at home. I was in London (Ontario) for a 4 day birth and breastfeeding conference (another tale for a different blog) and had a great night to myself.

As per usual, and I know most moms would agree, all hell broke loose at home the first night of the conference. Why do families do that to those who are out of the home? I'm sure it isn't on purpose, but what is a mom to do 100 kms away, run home to fix it?!

Theatre therapy couldn't have come at a better moment for me.

The show of choice was Wanderlust. http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=16136&prodid=41239 I loved it, thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm sure if it didn't kick me so hard in the gut, I would be singing its praise even louder. There are only 2 shows left. I'm kind of glad I only saw it once.

Leaving my personal reasoning behind, this show is exceptionally well done - from the men AND women singing, to the gorgeous costumes, lighting design (I love the flying bird and the snow), and choreography - it was damn near perfect. Hmmm I'm not quite sure what would have made it perfect. More Lucy Peacock perhaps?  I don't know...

It probably was perfect...

To get it out now - at one point, there were 7 men singing on stage. Happy Snoopy Dance...

Then, there was Robin Hutton (http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=16287&prodid=41239&id2=6367) and Lucy Peacock . They have distinctly different voices. Robin, and perhaps it was just because of her character, sings like an angel. Lucy Peacock sings like she should be singing the really good old jazz - singing from her soul. I think she stole the show. She was sexy, provocative, made a great drunk, and SINGS! I know I've posted this link before, but here is a quick mix of the songs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbnmMB_LUwc  These 2 incredibly talented women are why I don't want a woman to sing to me on my birthday next year. I'm far too jealous.

Tom Rooney made me swoon...maybe I'll nickname him Swooney Rooney? [bad joke, sorry]

Now, the part of the story I want to talk about, the one that kicked me in the gut, was a scene between Lou and Robert. Their discussion was whether living in a 'cage' is palatable since if it was chosen by the person, compared to having someone else build one for you. Lou was deciding on whom to marry, fully understanding the consequences of it.

This made me reflect on an article written by Kevin Yee (Linus in Charlie Brown, and in the male chorus, I guess you could say, in Wanderlust).

Before I go further, read this article Kevin wrote: Boy, band, bust. My heart broke/breaks when I read this article, mostly this part:

But music was not the main concern for the group’s management; marketability was, and I was their main target. One day our manager walked me into the offices of our record label for a closed-door meeting with the head executives. I was told that if I wanted to be a star I would have to do a few things. Translation: change everything.

“You’re coming off gay. It’s okay if you are, but we’re selling this band to teenaged girls. They’re the ones spending money. The success of this group is contingent on these girls having a crush on you, so you have to act like you like them.” What does it mean to act more straight? “Well, let’s start with the way you walk. You walk very gay, and we need to fix that.” So the lessons began. We would walk up and down the aisles of a grocery store practising my “straight walk.” Said “straight walk” is best described as a slow lurching limp, a far cry from my superb balletic posture.

“We need to make you look . . . well . . . not so . . .  you.” With that I was sent off to get my hair spiked and bleached white. A few piercings and a fake tan and I no longer looked like me; I looked like a rebellious sea monkey.

Kevin was 15 when this happened. FIFTEEN! What a horrendous thing to say to a child, to a teenager who just by being a teen boy means feeling ill-equipped to fit into an ever changing body and mentality. Add to that, being a 15 year old gay teenager, who had to look like a 'rebellious sea monkey" to be in the band.

How does one begin to wrap their head around that?

What I was thinking was whether it was Kevin's choice to be okay to 'straight walk' in order to be in the band (his walls), or it was it the record company's force which built the walls? I know I'm harping on his age (I have a 15 year old son), but can a 15 year old boy really understand the consequences? Either way, it must have been horrible to act as someone/something you are not.

It was deplorable of the record company to demand such a life change of Kevin.

As a straight female I can say Kevin Yee was a sexy beast on stage in Wanderlust. Learning to "act straight" paid off for him here, but at what consequence to those years between 15 and 18?

The day he came out must have been the most liberating moments of his life. He said:

When the band ended three years later, the first thing I did was come out of the closet. I was sick of pretending to be someone else and wanted to be happy. I gave up on the music industry. If they couldn’t appreciate who I was, then I wasn’t interested.

As for me, I have walls, a full cage, built up around me - but not of my own choosing, at first. It wiggled, and slithered around me over the past 15 or so years until it started to choke the life, my inner-voice, the essence of 'me', out of me. There have been parts of me locked away. I know that I have agreed to a wall or two in order to keep the peace, but others were slowly built around me like slow-drying cement (if there is such a thing).

I've worked hard over the past couple of years to be heard. The cage, once sound proof and double locked, now has dozens of holes which were kicked, punched, and head-butted out by me. Plus, I found the keys. These breathing holes mean the world to me.

What made these holes? Stratford, my kids' theatre productions, Art of Time Ensemble, art galleries, the Barenaked Ladies cruise, old time jazz, counselling, prayer...

It took Wanderlust to smack me in the head and yell, "WAKE UP, STUPID!"

Although I'm not dealing with homosexuality, I'm dealing with the constraints of a life where patience and hope have been demanded and expected of me. I have done things, agreed to some things, not to others, which some people have told me to do to keep status quo to allow others time to heal. I'm at the point in my life where I know this must stop. I want to be happy with my choices, like Kevin was/is with his.

And if I will still have walls, they will be built by me.  Good luck to whoever tries to break them down.

I've been thinking about this seriously for the past 2 or 3 months, a much shorter time than others may think.

Hearing Lou and Robert speak of her decision, about agreeing and therefore being in control of her own borders, or about relinquishing and giving the control to others - even though the physical outcome may be the same was hard for me to swallow. What she says is so true. The decision to speak up for your own heart  comes at a cost...but what a pay-off!

Going against your intuition is self-defeating.

Time to burst out of my cage.