Monday, September 23, 2013

Last night I was at a performance of Les Miserables put on by the Balagan Theatre Group here in Seattle.  Really well done and I appreciated the more intimate setting.  Having front row seats didn't hurt either (Thanks, Cami!).  

There might be more to come on that later... but one of the things I love about live theatre - even things you've seen before - is that something different stands out each time.  A certain performance,  a particular line provokes something like the pulling of a thread, one that you're still pulling a day or two or a year later.  

One of those provoking thoughts from yesterday's performance was in regards to "On My Own."  It was one of the stand-out moments.  The actress delivered the solo effortlessly (and it didn't hurt that she was stunning ;)

[Danielle Barnum as Eponine]
But more than a great performance, discussing our reflections after the show Cami and I ended up asking, "Why is it that every girl can - at one point or another - identify so deeply with 'On My Own'?  It's the song every girl has wanted to express at some point."  That may seem like an exaggeration or at least a bit melodramatic.  

But [ranty rabbit trail] I'm also kind of sick of the "cool girl" facade everyone seems to be pushing.  I should probably save this for another post, but sometimes my friends try to act "above it all" and pretend like things don't hurt and I just want to tell them, "Guess what?  God made you a girl!  That means you're allowed to feel things.  Actually, God likes it when you feel things.  He feels things and He made you like Himself.  So you don't have to act like you don't feel."  [end rant]

Getting back on topic,  I think pretty much every girl has had one or more "On My Own" seasons.  And then, of course, I thought about other favorite characters, and specifically Jane Austen character.  I thought about the two types of love stories Austen sets out:  the waiting ones and the winning ones.  

The "winning" ones are often our favorites:  Darcy works (almost entirely "off screen") to win Elizabeth who is surprised by love.  I'd also put Emma Woodhouse, Catherine Morland, and Marianne Dashwood into this category.  They are surprised and/or won over by the gents in their prospective stories.  

But there are also some incredible "waiting" narratives:  Elinor waits for Edward; Anne Elliot for Captain Wentworth;  Fanny Price for Edmund Bertram. 

I'm sure that love in real life contains aspects of both waiting and winning, but I couldn't help but ask myself which make for the better love stories?  There is something so unbelievable and fantastical and reminiscent of Christ's love when a character gets their world turned upside down with the idea that someone loves them undeservedly.  There's a reason - for all of his faults - that girls find Darcy's first proposal so attractive.  There's something inexplicably delightful in the speeches given by Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado when they "realize" the other person loves them.

And yet... what compares to the absolute thrill at the end of Sense and Sensibility when Elinor realizes that she and Edward can finally be married?  [In case you have any doubt of just how wonderful that moment is, I offer you the 1995 Emma Thompson/Hugh Grant scene - also check out the 2008 BBC version with Hattie Morahan and Dan Stevens (yes, he was Edward Ferrars before he was Matthew Crawley ;) ]

What romantic moment can beat Wentworth's letter?  "I am half agony, half hope..."

[The lovely Obvious State artwork based on his letter]

The ending to Persuasion is so overwhelming that I confess to avoiding it.  Both times I've read it and after seeing a sub-par adaptation, it wrecked me for days or weeks.  I am challenged and fascinated by Anne's endurance.  It's a beautiful and terrible thing.

I suppose I've rambled long enough.  I don't even have an answer for which seems to be the more powerful love story.  But I'd love to hear your thoughts - maybe not a definitive answer, but stories or people you've known that moved you.  

Love is so complex, and yet simple.  But it's worth both the surprises and the waiting.

“You who suffer because you love, love still more. To die of love, is to live by it.” - Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

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