29 November 2013

Somewhere That's Murderously Ironic and Green

Stereotypes are one of the most essential components of our art, culture, and media today. Whether we realize it or not, most audiences thrive on what they expect, or perhaps being presented with what they do not expect. Many campaigns, advertisements, or productions are created with the sole purpose of trying to change a stereotype. More in our current age than ever before, reverse images of stereotypes or expectations are constantly presented, normalized, and even encouraged. 

The 1980s musical, Little Shop of Horrors strongly presents stereotypical characters to tell the audience what to think. The musical number, “Somewhere That’s Green,” works cleverly to not only depict time period, but quickly brings the audience over to Audrey’s side to completely support her in her dreams, even if she’s made some mistakes in the past. Her wishes are simple, perhaps even relatable, making it easy for the audience to become emotionally involved in this fictional story.

Stereotypes become very useful in the production of early musical theatre. Stereotypes tell the audience what to expect, giving them an easy, clear exposition and relationship with the characters. The author can then use that expectation the audience will have to present an interesting story by breaking the stereotype in the end. For example, the sweet, not as strong, nerdy guy may end up triumphing over the big, strong, constantly successful guy.

In Howard Ashman’s Little Shop of Horrors, stereotypes are used in the opening scene to strongly set the premise. Mr. Mushnik, the husky Yiddish flower shop owner, barks orders hastily with much underlying anxiety. Seymour, the employee, wears a sweater vest, thick glasses and slicked over hair, as he clumsily works with the plants. Audrey, the skinny, platinum blonde, soft-spoken employee arrives very late, clad in a tight dress, with a fresh black eye displayed on her face. Her motorcycle-riding, well- endowed, pain-inflicting dentist boyfriend, Dr. Orin Scrivello, beats her regularly. And of course, Seymour is hopelessly in love with Audrey, and sees her as the most respectable, beautiful, kind woman he knows.

The story of Little Shop of Horrors (based on the 1960s film by Roger Colman), turns out to be a rather unbelievable tale about a man-eating plant, which has unfortunately fallen into the hands and care of Seymour. However, the audience is engaged enough in the characters that they really commit to the truth of this fictional world. A big contributing factor is Audrey’s lament, “Somewhere That’s Green.” This song paints a very clear picture of Audrey’s dream lifestyle, far away from her current circumstances. All she wants is that classic, 1960s, stay-at-home wife and mother lifestyle in a lovely, matchbox house in a suburb, with bright, clean-cut green grass. The lyrics give the audience this specific image of Audrey’s dream, and they are right there with her. At this point, they want nothing else than to have Audrey out of danger.

The lyrics also distinctly determine the time and geographic setting. Audrey has a thick New York accent, letting us know where Skid Row is located. The home and appliances she describes are all stereotypically picturesque of the 1960s. Audrey dreams that she “cooks like Betty Crocker, and looks like Donna Reed.” She also cleverly mentions three popular television shows of the time, while describing her ideal family with Seymour: “I’m his December Bride, he’s Father, he knows best. Our kids watch Howdy Doody, as the sun sets in the west.” The prominent description of the time period comes right from Howard Ashman, the writer. Alan Menken iterates his evident commitment to storytelling in an interview: “Howard really had a great sense of genre, of zeitgeist, and certainly the best example of the that was Little Shop of Horrors.” Zeitgeist is the encompassing mood of a period in history as a setting (Pearsall).

Teamed with the lyrics, the musical quality of the song is also very compelling. The composition has a light, dreamy texture. The instruments and harmonies are some that might be heard in a fairytale. The song rhymes seamlessly and refers to small amenities, such as a toaster and ironing machine. What sweet, simple little things. This is all Audrey wants, her “picture out of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Somewhere That’s Green.” Can’t we give it to her? 

The song as a whole uses a strong amount of pathos, as the audience feels so bad for abused Audrey they want to give her the perfect home immediately. The piece also uses ethos; the audience knows that Audrey isn’t safe with Orin, and knows she would be safe and happy with Seymour. 

The majority of this play does not use a lot of logos. Seymour finds and raises Audrey II, the blood-thirsty venus fly trap, bringing him major success in the but obviously murdering people in the process. However, “Somewhere That’s Green” is the part of the musical that uses a strong level of simple logic. A home like this is real and mentally tangible for the audience. It puts the audience on track to cheer for our protagonists and their dreams, even in this unlikely and bizarre setting.

Like any good musical, Audrey does receive what she wants in the end. Sort of. Audrey II, the vicious plant that has already devoured Orin and Mushnik, soon after eats the rest of the town with help of its newborn offspring. Audrey is attacked by the plant, saved by Seymour, but very close to death. In her last, sweet monologue to Seymour, she asks him to feed her to the plant, because, “If I’m in the plant, then I’m part of the plant. So in a way...we’ll always be...together. I’m feeling strangely happy now, contented, and serene. Oh, don’t you see? Finally I’ll be somewhere that’s...green.” (Little Shop, page 90.) In a very sick, ironic way, Audrey ends up in the “green” place she dreams of, a plant.

Little Shop of Horrors takes a stereotypical-looking exposition and turns it into one of the most surprising, disturbing productions of the 1980s. At last, a comedy musical that ends with the antagonist completely taking over the world. This surprise wouldn’t be nearly as impactful if the audience did not have pre-conceived notions about the characters and setting. At first, it seems that Seymour, the socially-awkward botanist has defeated Orin, the abusive tough guy, by winning Audrey’s heart and gaining plenty of financial success. This would appear to be the ideal, presumable conclusion. However, when all parties receive the same detrimental fate, everyone is a victim. The plant is an astronomical antagonist. Unlike any musical audiences had seen before, Audrey and Seymour didn’t ride off into the sunset to happily ever after. All the characters lost, and Audrey II was only getting started, to destroy “Cleaveland and Des Moines and Peoria and New York, and this theatre!” Suddenly, the biggest cliche- breaker of all, the characters break the fourth wall to warn the audience of the deadly danger they are now in. 

28 November 2013

NanoThankYou - Oops.

So. In true Brooklyn fashion, I committed to a project, started it a day late, made it look like I was going strong complete with pictures, and then waited until the morning it was due to finish it. Yay. Therefore, if any of you invisible audience members were looking forward to reading all my Thank You chapters, you should seek a new hobby. NO. I joke, I mean I'm sorry. Sorry. It's crazy to think I'm so blessed that I won't even be able to list MOST of the things I'm grateful for. I present, Chapter 3-28: Abridged.

3. Dear J.K. Rowling, thank you for the magical world my heart calls second home, and for creating a story about real magic. Love, Brooklyn.

4. Dear 1970s Clariol Kindness Hot Rollers, thanks for being there daily to calm the storm. Love, Brooklyn.

5. Dear Musical Theatre, Thank you for making my mornings theatrical,  letting me dance through high school, and making me cry at the gym. Love, Brooklyn.

6. Dear Clocks, thank you for giving me someone to look at when I feel like I should be panicking. Love, Brooklyn.

7. Dear Daddy, thank you for teaching me real magic and just about everything I know. Also, for being my very best friend.  Love, Brooklyn.

8. Dear Missionaries, thank you for embarking on the most wonderful and challenging adventure ever. I can't wait to join you. Love, Brooklyn.

9.  Dear Mr. Saxton, thank you for high school, and for letting me know the infinite importance of King Story. Love, Brooklyn.

10. Dear Ballet, thank you for giving me roots and passion. Love, Brooklyn.

11. Dear Pippin, thank you for happening. Love, Brooklyn.

12. Dear Fish, thank you for being so beautiful, soothing, colorful and exciting. Love, Brooklyn.

13. Dear Writing, thank you for being a thing and giving me people like Ms. LaFortune and Dr. Seifert to inspire, encourage and critique me. Love, Brooklyn.

14. Dearest Beautiful Wonderful Mother, thank you for teaching me to dance through life, being sure to clean up along the way. Love, Brooklyn.

15. Dear Elder Holland, thank you for always telling me to calm the swishandflick down and do something better. Love, Brooklyn.

16. Dear Exes, thank you for each teaching me something or many things that are very important. Love, Brooklyn.

17. Dear Audiences, thank you so much for putting up with and being there for me. Love, Brooklyn.

18. Dear 1940-1965, thank you for your female fashion, and for the costume inspiration it brings. Love, Brooklyn.

19. Dear Joseph Smith, thank you for making my favorite book happen. Love, Brooklyn.

20. Dear Magic, thank you for being real. Love, Brooklyn.

21. Dear cold, thank you for letting me have my fun when everyone else hates you. Love, Brooklyn.

22. Dear Katelyn, thank you for being my complete opposite and teaching me a lot of scary things about my self. And for your miraculous cookies and cupcakes. Love, Brooklyn.

23. Dear Temples, thank you for a place to serve and a place for peace and a place for families. Love, Brooklyn.

24. Dear sour candy and daisies, thank you for being two of my very favorite things. Love, Brooklyn.

25. Dear Boston, thanks for teaching me how to drive a manual car. Love, Brooklyn.

26. Dear mornings, thank you for always arriving, and doing so beautifully and theatrically. Love, Brooklyn.

27. Dear Food, thank you for you. You are a yes. Love, Brooklyn.

28. Dear Jesus Christ, thank you for your life, and your commitment to my and everybody's happiness. Thank you for being so everybody would always have at least someone who loved them infinitely. Love, Brooklyn.

03 November 2013

NaNoThankYou - Day 2

The days will synchronize with the date eventually. Just work with me here imaginary audience.

Dear Pie, Thank You! Love, Brooklyn
I am very much serious. I have do have an exceptional appreciation for pies. Pie is the most special and perfect dessert-- the beautiful texture combination crust, creme, and fruit brings is impeccable. I think pie requires commitment and love to make, as it can be slightly more complicated than other desserts. But it is so worth it, and I am so grateful for pie chefs.
Every time I indulge in a scrumptious piece of pie, not only am I taken on a refreshing, satisfying journey, but I am heavily reminded how much I NEVER want to waste my time settling for cake ever again. Cake is so universal. Everyone appears to like cake, and everybody thinks everyone like cake. It's the go-to party dessert because everyone like sugar bread with sugar slathered on top. I'm glad some people do and I love cake chefs who love cake, it's just not my jive. So if I'm the only person ever that doesn't really like cake, I apologize. Anyway, cake heightens my appreciation for pies. Cake is like being sad, if we weren't ever sad, we would never realize how good being happy is. If I didn't have to eat lame cake sometimes, I probably wouldn't realize how absolutely angelic pies are. So thank you pies, creators of pies and distributors of pies and Christy and Daddy who have given me pies in my life. Thank you for my favorite dessert, my sunny Sunday afternoon of life.


There's this awesome thing that occurs called NaNoWriMo, short for "National Novel Writing Month." A completely haywire and wonderful attempt to get to 50,000 words of novel in 30 days. I've always started and never finished, so here I am, with a goal similar to the past: finish! Pretentious as you may see this, I'm going to write a novel about 30 things I'm grateful enough for to write about. Not that anyone has to read it, but it's something I always kind of wanted to take a swing at, so here's to it.
Also, it's not too late to sign up and start your own novel! Go for it, and let me know if you do!

Dear Art, Thank You! Love, Brooklyn.

I am so grateful for feelings, passion, agency, and the dire need we have as humans to express it. Some might say art is lovely but we don't really need it, like we need science or water or something. I think we need art, at least I certainly do. A wonderful artist created us, and this earth and all its cool elements. I love all the art forms that have been in, influenced, inspired, and orchestrated my life, and I love the ones that will in the future, and the ones that evoke passion, love, and enjoyment in other people.
Literature, paintings, sculptures, photography, poetry, drama (maybe just a little), dance, costume design, music, make up, cooking, drawings, all the visual arts ever, web design, and even pretentious Instagram edits.
I love it all. ALL THE ART. Art is not there to be competed against. As much as I don't love it, art is sort of like Chuck-A-Rama. All of it is presented the way the artist feels and decides, then the people who like that kind of thing will see it, enjoy it, and on some levels be impacted or inspired by it. Isn't that way too radical? There's a piece of art for every one. Thank you art, for being there to allow us to love out loud.