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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

1776 (1972)

I have two favorite musicals. Sunday in the Park with George and 1776. I learned about both musicals from a college student who was periodically pulled in to help out with the summer children's musical in town and whom I had a massive, probably unhealthy crush on. Hey Jon, I'm sorry for mooning over you like a dope, thanks for introducing me to some of my favorite art. The trade was not equal. But isn't that how it goes? I hope you got to play John Adams.


Ben, watching the opening chorus of "Sit Down, John", knowing that I have an eternal crush on the musical version of John Adams, turned to me and said, "you do have a type." And it's true. I love a grumpy, righteous, principled man who is steeped in self-loathing. But, as I pointed out to Ben, you'd think that would make me like myself more, because that also describes me. How many times have I alienated myself against even the colleagues who like me because I am just So Worked Up about INJUSTICE? Seriously. How many times have I exhausted myself fighting and fighting and fighting, heartbroken that others aren't fighting too, and feeling somehow personally betrayed by their (apparent) inaction? It feels like I could set a freaking watch to it, it's such a regular occurrence. I haven't watched or listened to this show in a few years, mostly because I struggle with America as a concept and as its execution, but oof I was once again drop kicked by "Is Anybody There?", John Adams' 11 o'clock number wondering why people aren't as fiery and impassioned as he is. Honestly, the only other song that can do that to me is "Finishing the Hat" from Sunday in the Park with George (a song about - wait for it - alienating people you love as you pursue your passion).


I've been struggling a lot with the juxtaposition of my new found confidence and my lack of direction. This line has always hit home but it rang a little more true this week. "I've always been dissatisfied, I know that. But lately I find that I reek of discontentment. It fills my throat, and it floods my brain. And sometimes I fear there is no longer a dream, but only the discontentment." It's getting better but oof. I sometimes worry that my dreaming days are behind me. I only want to imagine for myself what's attainable and that's incredibly limiting.


As an aside, and with apologies to Ben, William Daniels as John Adams can Get It.




I love the romance of this telling of our history, too. Both the love stories of the Jeffersons and the Adamses but the deeply romantic portrayal of our founding fathers. One of the things I struggle about in loving this musical/movie in the year of our Lord 2022, is that it's the same kind of rose tinted glass viewing of our Founding Fathers that the far right engages in. Their idea that Jefferson and Adams were macho men who hated women and loved guns is just as far fetched as the idea that they were present minded enough to recognize their own faults and spontaneously crafted articulate philosophy at one another. As Franklin says, they were men. Nothing more, nothing less. However, I reject the shrug with which he says it. I also reject Franklin's discourse (whether or not it is historically accurate) that Adams needs to figure out how to get along with people he disagrees with. Even as those people are willing to tank everything just so they can continue to keep slavery. One of my favorite things about this fictional Adams is that he seethes with contempt, even at his friends, in the face of removing the slavery clause. Franklin is dead wrong, we do not need to find common ground with people who would do violent legislative harm - if not physical harm - to any person simply for existing.


The design of this movie sends me. It's so theatrical. The lighting. The special pin spot on the guy who pleads with Rutledge to stop singing. The costumes! Their colors and textures and the fact that they were almost certainly very stifling and smelly polyesthers. They look fabulous.


1776 has some of my favorite music of any show, both in the LUSH orchestrations and in the songs. It's dumb as hell but I so much as *think* about Thomas Jefferson and I immediately get "The Egg" stuck in my head. "Molasses to Rum" is one of the most haunting and perfect songs ever to be put on stage but it is a grotesquerie that I honestly wonder about the morality of performing any more. (VERY curious to see how the mostly female, race and ethnicity inclusive production coming to Broadway soon is going to handle it.) As much as I love the gender and ethnicity bent productions (very happy to have been assistant director on one such production a few years ago), I love the original recordings because I am a sucker for men's choruses. Rich full voices in compelling harmonies. Fuck. There's little on earth like it. The end of "Cool Considerate Men" gives me chills every time.


"Is Anybody There?"

Acrylic on canvas.



Takeaways:

-I wanted to do an oil painting but in acrylic. I'm just so wary of going down the oil road (mostly for logistical reasons) and I wanted to see if I would get some of that blending in acrylic. I'm getting closer! I'm very cheered by what I was able to accomplish in this piece.

-Many, many thanks to Ben this week. More than usual. He was an excellent cheerleader and when I got incredibly recalcitrant after finishing the face and most of the fabric, he correctly pointed out that I was worried about messing it up after doing those parts so well. Just identifying that made it a lot easier to pick up the brush again.

-I also appreciate how many times Ben walked into the room while I was painting and asked if I could make him sadder.

-Part of me really wanted to glaze this painting, warm the tones all over and highlight the candlelight a little more (a la the piece I did for Interview with the Vampire) but after the struggles I had a couple weeks ago with The Two Towers and glaze... I didn't want to risk it. In this end, I'm kind of pleased with the coldness of the light.

-Holy crap I just realized I painted this the week the British monarch took a hit. Good.


Next week: you know his name. Bond, James Bond. Specifically Casino Royale.


I hope you have a great week. I hope you can see that it's good that you're here and your voice and your fight are necessary. Even and especially when it's hardest. Don't feel like you have to cry over Imperialism in any form.

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