Thursday, August 21, 2014

Into the Woods for a Much Needed Reminder

It's been a while since I saw a stage show. Before yesterday afternoon, (Saturday, August 10 as I begin writing this post) I hadn't been to the theater in I don't know how long. I can't even remember the last show I saw that wasn't projected onto a screen rather than being performed live on a stage. Even the plays I HAD seen up until this point had been on Netflix, due to a lack of both cash and time to go to the theaters at which these productions were playing. That changed recently, when my better half of almost nine years now decided to purchase tickets to a show by Stephen Sondheim known as "Into the Woods", a fairy tale that takes the concept of the "fairy tale ending" and turns it on its head.

In summary: The show deals with several of everyone's favorite Grimm Fairy Tale characters such as Jack (of beanstalk fame), Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and their respective Prince Charmings. Their stories begin as we all know they do. Red is off to Grandmother's house to deliver a basket of goodies, Jack is of to market to sell his last cow for money with which to buy food from a local baker and his wife who, as part of their own story, desire a child. These characters, as well as the witch who imprisoned Rapunzel in her tower, all live within walking distance of a forest known simply as "the woods" wherein the characters are required to trek in order to accomplish their  respective goals. Act One of the play ends with each character having reached the supposed ends of their quests, and even has a finale musical number entitled "Ever After", that ends with the caveat "To Be Continued" spoken by the story's narrator. In Act 2, the story's moral of "be careful what you wish for" is explored in full.

Act 2 begins with the baker and his wife caring for their new child and contemplating adding a room to their home, Jack and his mother enjoying their (stolen) wealth, and Cinderella wishing to sponsor a festival such as the one she attended in Act 1. The witch has, thanks to the efforts of the baker and his wife in the previous act, regained her youth and beauty at the  expense of her magical power, as well. Thus is the stage set for what happens "Ever After".

Well, it turns out that "ever after" isn't as happy as the fairy tales would have us believe. Jack's adventures in the clouds have angered the wife of the giant he killed, and she is now looking for him so that she might bring him to justice. The giant's rampage destroys Red Riding Hood's home, and results in the deaths of several characters. At the end of the second act, we are treated with an ensemble reprise of the number "Children Will Listen", which warns that obedience and learning are not the same thing.

What's my point, you ask?

My point is that when I saw this show in high school for the first time, it affected me greatly, and has been my favorite show ever since. The viewing of that show on the tenth reminded me as to why. It served as a reminder that life isn't fair. We all, in our own way, have to journey "Into the Woods" at some point in our lives. When we do, we face the dangers of such a place, but we also experience the wonders. If we never journey into the woods, we might be safe at home and alive, but we're missing out on all the many paths and experiences that await.

When I first saw this show, I didn't realize that literally no one can avoid their own personal journey into their own personal woods. After having been through a few more experiences in the decade since I left high school, however, I realized unequivocally that I'd already journeyed there multiple times, whether I knew it or not. When I got my first job, learned to drive, even something as simple as driving somewhere I wasn't familiar with before. The realization was extremely emotional for me, and I didn't bother hiding the tears  that were brought to my eyes as a result.

In short, I learned something about myself during this particular journey into the woods, and I liked what I learned. I"ve been into the woods many times, and I've learned more than I thought in my time there. I've grown as a person by experiencing the seemingly mundane and every day problems that we all face as adults. I have, in short, matured without realizing it and I never would have done so without venturing into my own personal wood.

All in all, it's not  bad way to be.