July 16, 2011
"It's not what you're listening to, it's who you are listening with!" Those were the lines from one of the many memorable songs in Fly by Night, that previewed at Palo Alto's Lucie Stern theatre. A production of Theatreworks, Silicon Valley this brilliant new musical by the talented team Michael Mitnick, Will Connolly and Kim Rosenstock, was refreshingly different and well acted. I loved the Narrator played by Wade McCollum, something of a cult figure in his home of Portland, Ore. Narrators can be dicey unless they are superbly gifted and he was and had a a gorgeous singing voice to boot! Another big plus - a fabulous and well constructed and designed set that had a window through which the audience had a direct connection to the equally talented live band with Michael Pettry, Artie Storch, Jeff Massanari, and David Schoenbaum. The songs were terrific - you know a musical is successful when the audience heads out humming or whistling a few bars despite no-one having known the songs before the show.
But, none of those really explain why I had a great time. That has everything to do with people.
Social networking...the old way. I learned about the play through an email from my buddy Marissa Wesley. Marissa is an accomplished lawyer in a big NY firm who also is a loyal friend, a fearless feminist, and somehow found time this past year to successfully chair the search committee to find Musimbi Kanyoro, the new President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women. Her equally talented daughter, Emma was coming to Palo Alto with her boyfriend, Michael. So the email said. Michael, as in Mitnick, one of the directors and musical creators of the play! Then, I reached out to a friend Srinija, who is a jazz junkie, asking if she'd join me at a different kind of music scene. In turn, she invited me to come to a "play tailgate". In this instance, it was dinner with her family - her South Indian parents, who instilled in her a love of jazz at at early age as she grew up in Kansas - and her sister and brother-in-law, whose 8 year old son, Akhil, was bouncing around in a state of excitement. Akhil had to tell me all about being emcee at a big "Bollywood" music and dance extravaganza. Having seen this young man perform on stage, I have no doubt that in a few years, I will be attending shows with the Akhil Dance troupe!
Sitting in the theater watching a play set in Brooklyn in 1965 with a friend who has invested countless hours developing a fabulous new jazz performance and production center for creative music in Brooklyn, New York was special. It made the watching and experiencing of the play different for me. So did the fact that the play was set in a time where there were no cell phones, no blogs, no tweets, nothing except old fashioned phones and alarm clocks that stopped time.
After three weeks of living on my own this summer with a daughter off in India and a husband in Pakistan, I'm deeply respectful of the value of time on one's own, time to meander and reflect and lie awake reading till the wee hours of the morning. I'm grateful to have had the freedom to visit friends or stay at home, to listen to music and go for long walks on the Dish as often as I want. But, when I woke up this morning I had light feet and a silly grin on my face as I scurried to tidy up my messy home and to finish cooking some good "desi" comfort food for my younger sister, Mallika, who flew into San Francisco this afternoon.
And, as we curled up on the sofa this evening for a CNN special looking back at the Harry Potter series, those words from the play were running circles around my brain..."it's not what you're watching, it's who you're watching with!" I recognize the wonderful pleasures of being alone, but am grateful to be reminded that the ties of caring that bind us to others may be the most permanent thing in any of our lives. Did I mention that Mira, our daughter, gets home on Monday?