Sondheim’s Company: Being Alive in 2014

Culture, Interview, Performance

I was introduced to Sondheim’s 1970 musical Company when I was studying at Emerson College. I have to say I enjoy a good concept musical (Hair being one of my favorites), but I am not a die hard Sondheim fan. Outside of “Not While I’m Around”, which is such a lovely composition, I don’t really care for Sweeney Todd. Of course, I love the lyrics in West Side Story and Gypsy.

All that aside, Company initially sparked a reaction out of me due to its commentary on marriage, social interaction, and the culture of relationships in general.

I will admit that, before seeing Marblehead Little Theater’s recent production of the show, the only front to back version I had watched was the 2011 revival (segment below). Aside from that, I just listened to the songs a whole ton.

During MLT’s rendition of “Sorry/Grateful”, I observed an older couple in the audience put their arms around each other, and that made me very happy/sad.

With all of the productions of Company popping up over the Boston area, I started to think a lot more about what the show’s themes mean in today’s society. It was interesting to hear from the directors and producers of these productions, and you can read my article for The Arts Fuse here.

I think that, in today’s society of Facebook and Twitter and Instagram…we forget about who is hiding behind the computer screen. All it takes is one read of an article on any various news website to see the pores of hateful and cowardly comments posted underneath. These people don’t have to have the guts to insult people to their faces, because they hide behind their computer and insulting avatars.

Same goes for social media. When Facebook started, it was a college thing. Now, I’m not going to be an old fart and say ‘back in the day, when Facebook was great’, because was it ever…? But social media has become a way for people to brag, show off, act like their own little celebrity, and display only what they want everyone to see. The perfect couple photos, the point-and-smile in front of gorgeous food, the poses that only let the world see your good side. Unless you want to be passive aggressive, complaining for attention, or bullying people. Some individuals seem to be fine with that as well.

I’m not against social media. It has proven to be very helpful (to me, anyway) for networking and job searching. It’s a great way to share creative work and events (as you may have found this blog post from), or email college friends. Though I have to admit I find it unsettling that so many people freely display every detail of their life, or their child’s life, online in a voyeuristic free for all.

Most of all, it has bothered me that it leads us to not glance up and actually look at one another, interact with one another, and relate to other people on a real human level. This post I wrote in November exemplifies that. A few weeks ago, a man got up at my bus stop and his lunch bag smacked me square in the face. My glasses flew right off and clattered down the bus aisle. Nobody asked if I was okay, but thankfully nobody stepped on my glasses (boy, did I feel like an old fashioned dweeb). Once again, the phone held everyone’s attention.

That’s not to say that everyone is like that. You know…to the random man who hailed the bus for me a week before…thank you! To the random man who helped a family get their stroller on the subway the other day…you’re great! To the girl who offered to hold my coffee on the train, or the lady who gave me a tissue when my makeup went all Alice Cooper in the rain…wonderful! See? There’s no sense in feeling all doom and gloom about humanity.

But a few weeks ago I waited for the bus in Harvard Square and noticed a homeless man sleeping on the bench. Two teenage boys came over to the bus stop and found this site to be so hilarious, I was afraid they would start taking photos of him on their phones. I was so bothered that they thought this man’s suffering was amusing. I didn’t know what to do if my bus arrived and they were still there. What if they harassed him? Thankfully, they got on a bus and left. But still. Is that where we are? We’d rather get a clip of something on our phones so we can Tweet about it than actually help someone or even just let them be? When I Tweeted my disgrace at these two boys, though, I was glad to see so many people share it in support of helping those less fortunate. That was my biggest social media stat to date, and I don’t care that it was not related to my media or writing or music. I think a social issue like that deserves our attention.

I leave you with the song that has forever engrained Company as a musical near and dear to me. The lyrics say it all.

Somebody crowd me with love
Somebody force me to care
Somebody let me come through
I’ll always be there
As frightened as you to help us survive
Being alive

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