I wanted to write a story about a monkey driving a speedboat, and the adventures that he would have whilst driving this speedboat. I got this far:
There once was a monkey who liked to drive speedboats…
And then I had to stop because it was going nowhere. And then I thought I could do a back-story for this monkey and why he likes driving these speedboats so much, and I got this far:
When Tony was six (Tony is the name of the monkey). When Tony was six, he had a fascination with speedboats…
And I stopped there because I realised the idea was pretty bad I and I had no idea about what I was writing. So I thought, I really have to write something, so start now.
In the beginning Tony loved to drive his speedboat around his estuary with his other monkey friends who called themselves the Jets. They liked to click (monkeys can click, they’ve got thumbs) and sing and dance and generally just run amok around the town. Tony was different though because he always thought something was coming. There was this big dance one night for all of the islands where he met this beautiful girl monkey named Maria. And they hit it off and they had lots of fun together, but Maria’s brother Bernardo didn’t like Tony because he was from another part of the monkey islands…
So some of you may have picked up that I’m just re-telling the plot of West Side Story. I could sing, dance, and act it out for you, but the limitations placed on me by the connection speed of Cape Paterson’s internet provider is ridiculous. Just watch Cher’s one-woman version on YouTube – it’s only slightly less entertaining than mine.
So obviously the next best thing to present to you is a self-reflective piece on sport and musical theatre. Amazing, I know. So here we go!
The Jets are the ‘sport’ of Australia, and the Sharks are the ‘musical theatre.’ They are both so parochial, and, in my opinion, cannot accept each other. Anita tells us that you have to have “One of your own kind, stick to your own kind.” You cannot have both; it’s one or the other.
I have a friend who is a teacher who once cast his school’s musical, Into The Woods. He told everyone in the cast: “If any of you play sport you have to quit. Now.” When I asked why his students couldn’t play sport and be in the musical, he replied, “It just doesn’t work like that. You either do one or the other. And they could get hurt. If they get hurt, it ruins the production. That’s why.”
In West Side Story there’s hate and dancing and love and singing and turf wars and belting and dream ballets and dissonant chords. And then Tony gets shot and dies, and then Maria gets all fierce and ‘up in everyone’s grills,’ including the cops’. But there is no way that would happen in real life. Those cops would be all over her Puerto-Rican arse. She would be in hand cuffs and in the back of that divvy van before Tiger Woods could find another mistress (that’s a golf reference). Seriously, that would never happen. But Maria cries and then the Jets pick up Tony’s body but they struggle a little bit so some of the Sharks help to carry him offstage and that’s the end. That would only ever happen in musical theatre.
Where is the place for violence in musical theatre? West Side Story! Well it’s not violence. It’s more of like fun ‘oh-my-god-they’re-so-cool’ violence. Imagine having a gang of fifteen young adolescent males walking towards you, rhythmically singing and clicking. I don’t condone gang violence or warfare of any type kind, but I would be in that gang so fast that… You don’t even know how fast I would be in that gang.
I was a violent child, actually. I pushed someone into the swimming pool when I was five. I kicked another in the face with my football boot when I was seven. I slapped one more across the face at basketball when I was eleven. I threw a Frisbee at a boy’s stomach when I was fifteen, and I hit one guy in the face with a tennis ball when I was seventeen. All of these were on purpose.
I’m not that violent anymore. But I do get frustrated. Frustrated at Collingwood when they lose. Frustrated when my housemates used to stir my pots, literally. Frustrated at directors who cast non-dancing males in lead dancing roles. Frustrated at directors who cast non-singing males in lead singing roles. Frustrated at director who don’t cast me.
There is too much anger in sport. But in musical theatre there just… isn’t. I am though. Without anger “I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free. I’ve got to find my corner of the sky.”
What’s that? Is that football? Oh. Did they play on the weekend? Do you like sport? Me? No.
They are ignorant of each other yet they are so similar. They perform within a boundary. Off stage. On stage. On field. Off field. They are not mutually exclusive.
I have dreams “in bright colours” (that’s a musical theatre reference) where I am marking the ball over packs in first, second, third, fourth, and fifth position, pirouetting around guys twice the size of me, and kicking goals while grandé jeté-ing. Yes, I am that cool.
Where is that musical, that one song that encapsulates the essence of sport and theatre? It’s not there. Name one. “Getcha’ Head In The Game” from High School Musical does not count. It is not a musical. It is hardly even a song. It has tainted young brains of all that is good and proper in this world. Did High School Musical win ten Academy Awards and two Tonys like West Side Story? I do not think so.
Musical theatre has taught me so many meaningful life lessons. Imagine transferring these lessons into a locker room:
“When I think of a day that’s grey and lonely, I just stick out my chin, and grin and say. Oh, the sun will come out tomorrow. So you’ve gotta hang on to tomorrow, come what may.”
Would it work the other way? Could I heckle in the theatre?
“You call that a high C?! Pick it up stage manager! My grandmother can time step better than that!”
I’ve learnt meaningful lessons from sport too. How to give 110%. Why you should always carry a bottle of water. To never eat two hamburgers before swimming a race.
“We are Geelong, the greatest team of all. We are Geelong, we’re always on the ball.”
How happy would Georges Bizet be if he knew Carmen had been transformed into a sporting chant? I make sure when I sing Collingwood’s anthem that I slide onto the notes, try a few riffs here and there, and give it as much vibrato as I can.
“Who do you think you’re kidding? You look like a fool. No matter how hard you try you’ll never be good enough.” But I like both. Can’t I do both? I’m going to do both.
So I will. I will wear my Collingwood jersey to rehearsals. I will extend through my foot and point my toes.
“Look at what you want, not at where you are, not at what you’ll be. Look at all the things you want to be.” I want tolerance. I can’t help but look where I am. I am here. I don’t know what I’ll be. I want to be happy. I want to be safe and comfortable. I want to just keep moving on.
What happens after the Jets and Sharks carry the dead body off stage? Do they forgive? Are they accepted into each other’s cultures? Or do the Jets shank the Sharks and watch them bleed?
There is a place for us. Somehow.