Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Morality & Cocktails

A Thoughtful Thinking-Through of the Thoroughly Enjoyable "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day"
by Portia & Desdemona

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day follows the trials and triumphs of Miss Guinevere Pettigrew on her day spent as a companion to Delicia LaFosse, a struggling actress. Miss Pettigrew is a prim middle-aged woman, the daughter of a clergyman, who is the quintessential strait-laced turn-of-the-century woman. Delicia, on the other hand, is living the life of a young starlet trying to make her way to stage stardom-using any and every means available. In contrast to Miss Pettigrew, Delicia's morals reside decidedly in the "non-existent" category. Although Delicia's silly little runnings about are portrayed with tongue-in-cheek and a little wink, they are, to be candid, decidedly immoral. She's giving herself away in order to get ahead in the world. And the justifications she uses are basically "well, everybody's doing it." Miss Pettigrew doesn't approve at all, she remonstrates Delicia, telling her: "Love is not a game."

The many faces of Delicia.

The fact is, Delicia herself knows that what she's doing is wrong. She simply doesn't have the moral muscle to change herself. As Mitch Albom writes in Tuesdays With Morrie, "The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn't work, don't buy it." (42) - Morrie Delicia on her own does not have that strength. But, with the helpful influence of Miss Pettigrew, she finds the moral backbone she lacks.

And, on the flipside, Miss Pettigrew needs Delicia. Miss Pettigrew is told to "loosen up" on several occasions. Miss Pettigrew is a strong, moral woman. But a woman who has confused moral strength with severity. Delicia has confused freedom and joy with doing whatever the heck she wants. Miss Pettigrew is lacking love and warmth; Delicia is lacking love and strength. But, by the end of the day, Miss Pettigrew and Delicia has forged a friendship which has allowed these women to share their love, warmth, and strength.

"So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things." (43) --Morrie (Tuesdays With Morrie)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lessons from The Verge

"I've seen the future and it is slang."--Fanny, On the Verge

Recently, I read a thoroughly excellent play entitled "On the Verge." (see picture). Basic premise: three Victorian explorer women set out to explore "Terra Incognita," and end up travelling into the future. Highly recommended. It made me realize how many fantastic, delicious words ther are in the English language. There's a whole treasure trove of words out there just begging to be used!

Resolution #1: Polish up vocabulary.

In contrast, the show I just finished working on, columbinus, had a different sort of vocabulary. It was gritty and realistic and very rough, which was perfectly fitting for the show. The constant barrage of dirty words made me realize how pointless foul language is. Its only point is to shock and seek attention. But after you've been bombarded with those words thousands of times, they loose their power. But words like: incandescent, sunset, creamy, cerulean, ebullient, effervescent, melifluous, snowfall, sparkle, celestial, vibrant, beauty, quintessence, and love will always radiate beauty and meaning. That's what language is supposed to be.

Also, I was surprised by how much I identified with the character Mary (there are three main characters-Fanny, Mary, and Alexandra). Throughout the play, I never felt like I had a good sense of who Mary was, until the end. Half-way through the play, the women settle down in the 1950's. But Mary wants to travel on, she wants to find more and more adventures---"I have such a yearning for the future! It is boundless!" I love that spirit of adventure-it reminds me of that Chesterton quote: "An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered, an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered."

Resolution #2: Look on life as an adventure.

Finally, one of the big debates that exists in the play is whether or not the women should wear trousers. (Trousers! Shocked gasp.) Alexandra is all for it, Fanny is dead set against it, and Mary says: "The civilizing mission of Woman is to reduce the amount of masculinity in the world. Not add to it by wearing trousers." I would argue with Mary that we're not supposed to reduce the amount of masculinity, per se, but rather counter it with an equal amount of femininity. These three women are strong, gracious, and playful. Despite their idiosyncratic flaws, they're all admirable literary characters.

Resolution #3: Be a part of "On the Verge" someday, somehow, somwhere.