Bridges of Madison County

While Hollywood continues to ignore women, Broadway continues to do an awesome job of letting women run the show. This is a delicious musical made from a bestselling book. I never read the book, because I thought, “Oh, that’s trashy reading, not for me. I’m so literary.”

But this show was for me. The musical explores stay-at-home mother Francesca’s complicated feelings when a handsome artist, a photographer from National Geographic, crosses her small town path, just for a few days.

I made the mistake of going to see this with one of teenagers. I should’ve seen it with a girlfriend. Because, yes, it’s a show about an extramarital love affair, but it’s also very much about best friends and women supporting each other. I need to debrief this show.

As her affair unfolds, I worried that our heroine, played by the brilliant Kelli O’Hara, was going to be busted by the gossipy neighbor Marge, played by the funny and charming Cass Morgan. But Marge never outs Francesca. She helps her. See, there’s marital loyalty, which is on the wane, and then there’s girlfriends’ loyalty, which never goes out of fashion.

I love the singing. And I love the set. The covered bridge is this simple, floating, bare-bones structure, not an oppressive, dark archway. Nice. I’d like to think that this ‘lightness of being’ can translate into our idea about marriage too. Marriage, a covered bridge, can be lighter and less oppressive than it looks.

Francesca’s heaviness of marital love is brightened by something — or someone — light. The two artists are drawn to each other, even in Iowa, even in the 1960s.

I love the way they talk about art and photography. I love the story.

Marriage is simpler and more complicated than it seems — less trashy novel, more sophisticated musical. And Francesca was loyal and unfaithful at the same time. Bridges of Madison County got me thinking about all that.

bridges of madison county
(Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale, courtesy of Bridges)

Disclaimer: Thanks to Bridges of Madison County and the Serino/Coyne group for the tickets. The opinions on this blog are always my own.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Soul Doctor

soul doctorI love religion, hippies, and men who cry easily. So how can I not recommend this new musical Soul Doctor?

This musical has many themes – it’s a coming-of-age parable and an unlikely friendship between Nina Simone and Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. The Rabbi became a blockbuster recording artist in the 1960s. Incidentally, a synagogue named for him is in my Upper West Side neighborhood.

The show leaves you on such a great high. I felt we, the audience and actors, should end the evening with a group hug. Or together, we could all sing Hava Nagila or Shalom, My Friend — the only Hebrew songs I know.

I am not Jewish but I still enjoyed the spirit of unconditional love in this show.

But I have a few thoughts of how I might tweak this show before it comes to Broadway. Oh, wait! It’s on Broadway. Here are my thoughts any way.

Schlomo, at the end, comes to value his father’s gentle leadership, but what about his mother? Surely, she must’ve been more than a stereotypical small-minded immigrant to have instilled in Shlomo such a deep commitment to love and kindness and warmth for his fellow human beings.

Another thing — when Schlomo and Nina meet, they compare the sufferings of their tribes. This is never a good conversation. Hello! I’m Irish. I don’t think it’s ever productive to brag about or base our identities on our collective victimhood. Instead, let’s talk about the resilience and the perseverance of our peoples. Let’s sing, dance, write poetry (and blogs) and rise above the inevitable suffering with a daily dose of joy — which, mostly this musical does.

After the show, my husband and I met the talented Amber Iman. She played Shlomo’s bestie Nina Simone. She disarmed us with her wisdom and love!

The singing and acting was lovely. I loved Eric Anderson as Shlomo (and yes, wanted to hug him!). He was like the original Hugging Saint Amma. I am a huge fan of hugging. My husband fell in love with Amber Iman (and probably wanted to hug her). She played Nina Simone, like Shlomo, a person of great talent and great warmth for her fellow human beings.

Their relationship was interesting — it transcended a Hollywood narrative. It is charming and disarming when a man and a woman are great friends and artistic supporters of one another without being romantic partners. Artists, like singers and writers, require a lot of encouraging friends. (Thus, my Life Rule #1 Pile on the People.)

I was inspire20130816-122217.jpgd by Shlomo’s deep commitment to young people and social justice.

The musical is at Circle in the Square Theatre, 1633 Broadway (on 50th St. between Broadway and 8th). The last show in that theater was Godspell which my kids loved. Same story, different religion. Give love. Give yourself to others unconditionally.

For more info, check out

Thanks, Culture Mom Media for the tickets to Soul Doctor. All thoughts are my own.

Reading at the Art Share

I locked up my bike. I was pretty nervous about the reading. I used to perform a lot. But it’s been a while. I do presentations for work, but that’s not the same.

Reading my own story, I could be judged, not just on my performance but on my material. I had signed up to read at the New York Insight Meditation Center Art Share. Not exactly the stress of Amateur Night at the Apollo, but still, stressful.

Just breathe, I reminded myself.

Buddhism and its practitioners are known for non-judgment. What a great concept — not judging.

I was reading a story that I knew to be funny, poignant, true. It was a mash-up of a few blog posts, one of which was about a mindfulness walk on a retreat.  As I walked, I took out my phone to snap  a picture and then it happened — I got caught in the web of social media — answering emails, texts, updating my Facebook, all while trying to meditate. I had gone on the retreat to get away from it all, but unwittingly plunked myself right back  into the thick of it all.

The reading went well. I got some laughs, some nods, some smiles.

After the reading, I felt that post-performance high — that arm-stretched-in-the-air pose of a gymnast who has just nailed her floor routine.

I bumped into an acquaintance who was about to teach a yoga class. She told me that my reading went well.

“Thanks,” I said, feeling grateful.

That’s when I realized the purpose of doing a reading or blogging or putting myself out there — is to turn acquaintances into friends. And to feel grateful.

I got on my bike. I rode home feeling proud and humble at the same time.

Pile on People and Activities

My number one rule is pile on people. I like to pile on activities as well as people. It is my way of coping. I like to say yes to every invitation and expand on every good idea offered — lessons I learned from performing improv.

Calder's Red Mobile, creative commons

Families are like fine art mobiles — when one member swings one way, the others move another — compensating, balancing, attempting to maintain equilibrium. With Chris’s increased slowness, I take on more. Like the arm on a mobile, I swing faster. I fly one way, while other pieces bounced along. Life swings every one. With Chris away with siblings in the Adirondacks this weekend, I did more. And I liked it.

When he’s gone, I depend more on friends.

Here was my Sunday. I got up early.

  • journaled
  • blogged
  • cabbed to pick up Charlotte from a sleep over
  • brunched at friends’ — lovely — bagels, lox, whitefish
  • dropped Hayden at church
  • napped for 20 minutes
  • got the car
  • picked up H. from church
  • dropped one child off at Randall’s Island, Icahn Stadium
  • drove to Cold Spring to get Kate from her sleep over
  • walked around with friends and K. in Cold Spring
  • watched the people fishing
  • chatted, picnicked by the harbor with friends
  • ate yogurt at a yummy yogurt place
  • picked up K.’s things from Garrison
  • drove K. and myself back to Randall’s Island
  • cheered H. and his team at track and field events
  • drove friends and kids back to city
  • parked the car at a lot
  • made dinner — chicken, rice, broccoli, strawberries
  • helped H. pack for 5-day bike trip
  • cleaned
  • sent myself and the kids to bed at 10:30

In a family, there are tons of ways to cope when a spouse is out of town, sick, or just unable to deliver the goods. People tell me, “You do too much.” Yet I would rather pile on people, activities, work, exercise, kindness than pile on resentment, solitude, inertia.

I’m sure there’s a lesson in how to balance your life based on the image of  a Calder-type mobile. Balance is not part of my vocabulary.

Enthusiasm, passion, friendship, too many activities? That’s the way! Pile it on.

3.2 miles in 39 minutes

Yesterday I ran at lunch time. Riverside Park was so beautiful. The muted oranges and burnt reds of late fall against a Robin Egg blue sky.

On Fridays I am either incredibly productive or slightly lazy. I can push myself. Or I can push paper around my desk, “Well, this can wait until Monday.” 

Unless it’s Friday before a week off! Yes, a week off. And then I must clean off my desk top, water my plants, tie up all my loose ends. Nothing can wait. Everything must get done.

So I was psyched to get away from my desk when Liz facebooked me in the morning about a lunchtime run. We met at Riverside Church, ran down to Fairway and along the new trail beside the Hudson. Then we ran back up at around 99th along the upper promenade.

My last run was with one of my 11 year old daughters last weekend. She joined the Running Club at school. On that run, we kept a pretty good pace. Then she complained of an earache. It was cold.

My experience running with my kids is that they either take off fast ahead of me or slow down to a snail’s pace with an ailment.

Adult friends have outgrown that. Adults can set a pace together. Although Liz and I run, then walk, we always can talk and never run out of things to say. On Friday’s run, the endorphins really kicked in. By the end of our run, I had new ideas for housecleaning, writing and work projects.

I love Friday workouts before a long week off.

Bonus: there’s no guilt if over the weekend, I’m slightly lazy. I have done my work out, thank you very much. Or if Thanksgiving is coming and I can eat as much as I want. Yay.