Last post I was 42,000 words from winning NaNo. As predicted in that post, however, I won. When I won in 2012, I did it with a huge early push – facilitated by being held in an airport for a whole day (thanks, Atlanta!) – and kind of mailing it in for the middle two weeks, followed by a big rally at the end. This time, it was slow and steady, doing the work every day. See chart. I’m prouder of the chart than I am of winning. Well, no, but it’s close.
The book I was supposed to be writing, Knights of Insanity, I never touched. Instead, I took a short story and made it 70,000 words, and sometime in spring you’ll see The Vortigern Jack come out. I’ll tell you about it sometime.
Toward the end of the month I went to see a play at Lehi HS, which sits a block from my house. The kids were putting on Urinetown, which is not quite as crude as it sounds, and has interesting though ultimately snide and condescending elements, and I didn’t care overly for the show itself. I find that there’s not a single tune from it I can remember (or could even later that night).
The performance, though, was exceptional. The leads were good, some of them outstandingly so, but everyone was more than adequate, better than most casts I’ve seen do things I thought were much more interesting. I was impressed with them all.
It wasn’t that that captured me, though. I rarely watch the leads. I’m expecting them to be good. I’m watching the ensemble, especially the kids buried in the back. I’ve been out front, and I know that the show is made by the whole cast, not just the guys in the playbill. A truly great show requires 100% buy-in from everyone out there, no matter how small the part. This, ladies and gentlemen, was a truly great show.
I’ve been in my share of plays, and seen dozens more, both professional and community, big casts and small. I’ve never seen anything done this well by any high school or college; only a handful of professional troupes can match what Lehi is doing on that stage. There is a shocking crispness to the performance. Dropping a line is unthinkable. There isn’t any moment in which you catch the leads acting; they simply are the characters they’re portraying. More, though, is the absolutely incandescent ensemble – and it’s dozens and dozens of people – and the ridiculous energy they put out.
No, that’s not high enough praise. There is beautiful precision to the dancing and inventiveness to the choreography, and the ensemble performs it with verve, but it’s so good that while they are all together, they are also individuals. Every character has character. I can tell you what “boy number 4 on the right” thinks about what’s going on, because he was allowed to show it, and he did. I’ve never seen anything like that, nowhere, to that degree. I certainly can’t believe – even now, I can’t believe – that I saw that on a high school stage, with actors who aren’t paid.
It was so good I was depressed by it. I’ve directed shows. THAT certainly never happened in any show I’ve been in, much less supervised. I like to think I’m pretty good at what I do, but I don’t know that I could have auditioned and made the ensemble of that show, let alone one of the leads. Leaving that aside, what I really wanted to know was how the director got that to happen up there. I’m not kidding when I tell you it was magic. Not only has no play I’ve been part of ever produced that, no other organization, volunteer or paid, has ever produced it. I want to be a part of something like that so bad it kills me.
Jill and I discussed at some length how you can make something like that happen. I clearly don’t know, or baby, I’d have done it. Jill thought about if for a night and came up with the idea that in order to get that level of buy-in from a group, the leader has to have a crystal-clear vision of what it is he wants to see happen.
Most of my life I’ve had great things happen for me almost by accident. I married Jeanette because I was chasing another girl, who ran and hid. We have eight children because…well, I don’t really know. Biologically, yes, but we certainly never set out to have eight children, we just took what opportunities were there and did what seemed like a good idea at the time. I was never going to be a mortgage guy, sing opera, or teach school. Yet here I am. Every one of these things is better than what I had planned. I’m ecstatic about my life. But there’s no way I’m getting that level of excellence without knowing exactly what it is that I want.
I’m lost. I don’t mind being lost. It’s pretty normal by now. Still, part of me wonders if some of these other things I think I want are not going to be achieved by wandering into them, but by intentionally creating something I’ve seen clearly and pursued with focus and discipline. How to get there, though, I don’t know.
I’m asking you. How do you get a clarity in your mind about what it is you want to see? Lehi drama kids, how do you get from the director the permission to be yourselves, and yet want so badly to buy into what the group is doing? How does that work? If you’ve been part of something like that, I really need your help.