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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

Center Stage (2000)

This was Ben's first trip to the ABA (I envy him a little), so let's examine it through his eyes/quotes:

(When I was trying to hype the movie earlier in the week I said, "And it has Donna Murphy! You love Donna Murphy." [Ben nervously nods & smiles])

[Enter Donna Murphy] Ben: [pointing] She was in Star Trek: Insurrection!

Me: See? You love Donna Murphy.

"Is that Jamiroquoai?"

"Am I supposed to like [Cooper]? Seriously, are we supposed to like him? He has no soul!"

"No one rides a motorcycle like that."

" who am I supposed to root for?"

[The Quick Change, my Roman Empire, that Ben has heard about for years, happens.]

"THAT WAS IT? SHANNON THAT IS NOT A QUICK CHANGE. THAT. No. It's not a quick change! It's a lie!" "And that's why I must figure it out." "Ugh. Shannon, no. No, Shannon."

"Oh well, at least Jamiroquoai is back."

And look, he's not wrong about The Quick Change. It's impossible. Which is why I'm determined to solve it. I talked about it so much at the University in my time there, students would seek out the movie and come back to me with, "I don't think it can be done, but I want to figure it out." Those students were my favorites.

When I first saw Center Stage, it was probably what previous generations felt about Fame or A Chorus Line. There's something in it that makes you, an artsy kid with Big Dreams, feel seen. It's a fairy tale. You can get the (surprisingly straight) guy, the slot at ABA, turn that down and somehow get the prinicipal dancer role at a hot new company even though you have [gingivitus voice] BAD FEET! And of course, these are even bigger, crueller lies than The Quick Change.

But it's a lovely collection of lies. You and a bunch of other beautiful losers can make it without sacrificing your sense of self. It's a lie you want to believe you can pull off.

Now, I enjoy the movie as 1) a way to stay connected to that kid who thought it was possible and remind me that it's natural, not foolish, to dream and 2) in the same way I enjoy The Gilded Age ("Look! Donna Murphy! Debra Monk! Pretty and wholly unrealistic costumes!")

And that's enough for the rainy Sunday afternoons I find myself settling in to watch Center Stage. It's more than enough.

I honestly don't know how to describe this one. "Mixed media?" Sure, let's go with that.

My Roman Empire

Mixed media.


-This took so long but it was (mostly) a blast. I'm enjoying "messy" art lately. I'm a messy human but My Trauma (tm!) and deeply engrained sense that I must be perfect in order to be lovable makes it hard to let loose in art. I'm always a little jealous of the artists at the museum that people scoff at and say about, "Well anyone can do that." No. Anyone can't. Part of me wishes I would have had that kind of destructive phase of adolescence. The most I did was pick at binders (when I couldn't hide picking at my skin anymore) or let my markers jumble without their caps and rain colorful, (later dryly disappointing) chaos in my backpack. The Birdman piece and this one feel a little like finally drawing on my jeans or shoes. It's imperfect and it's freeing.

-I did doodle movie quotes on some of my folders in middle school (but in such a precious, orderly way, constantly let down by my own lettering) and I hadn't remembered that until I was halfway through this piece. It felt like a hug across the decades. I wanted to include the quotes because what makes Center Stage so much fun is how quotable it is. And how stupid the quotes are. It's lovely. Again, as a movie about young artists straining against expectations the world has for them, I love how deeply flawed it is.

-I finally figured out the quick change! Hahahahahahaetc. But seriously, this was a fun lil puzzle to solve! Sculpting does not come easily to me in general and trying to sculpt a wee ballerina who had two fronts was wild. Painting her face was a reminder that painting miniatures for D&D is so (comparatively) easy because the sculpt does so much of the work for you. But bad/simple sculpt? Tough paint job.

-I wish Wix didn't suck with sharing video because the footage of her backwards fouettes is a hoot.

-In my heart of hearts, I really really wanted music box "Canned Heat". I researched making your own music box and there are kits but it was beyond the scope of this project/my desire to catch up. Alas, it plays Swan Lake, which is still kind of fun.

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