Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Corner of Satya ST and Samsara BLVD

One: The Musical

Watch for's coming to New York.

The theatre collective posted what I wrote for my Buddhist audience on their website here. I wrote that before I saw it, piecing together what I could from an email from Wade McCollum (now I can't believe I passed up the chance to interview him in person) and from their press releases and other research. I tried to be positive but neutral...I mean I didn't know if it would be good and was a little worried it would be the new age tripe that the Mercury tried to say it was. I said maybe it could be a bodhisattva...and now I know it is.

Shiva! This is now my favorite musical. I'm all tingly. I just got home from the last showing here in Portland. Wow. I went to see it a week ago, and already the little dialog things I thought needed tightening up were changed for the better. (My contact with them told me tonight they're always changing it like that.)

Ok, I know it sounds hokey, and you'll think, it's been done...Hair, Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar. And now I'm all excited because it's OUR musical, the musical for Buddhists. It started out based loosely on Herman Hesse's "Siddhartha" and is set in these times about a young man faced with the choice of fame or a spiritual path, but it is so much more than than that. My favorite character is Karuna, who appears at key moments to Sid Arthur. (I did say it was hokey, but so's a Lion King.) She sings...incredibly beautifully..."Gate gate, paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha" (pronounced gah-tay)

So ya know how in musicals there's always a love interest. In this one it's the dharma. Karuna means compassion, and that mantra is a key one throughout much of Buddhism, the essence of the Heart Sutra. There are several other mantras throughout, parts of songs, of choruses, even of Sid Arthur 'hearing things'.

The Mercury (the bitter gen-x-er newspaper) dismissed it as new age tripe, but new age it is not. There is one really funny song/scene in the Zen Sandwich that laughs heartily at "ginko biloba burgers" and their product placement (really) Awake Zen tea, and has the very cute Karuna as a barista singing nasally, "Latte, satte (something something) got your latte...." That comes up several times, I love it, can't wait for their cd so I can remember all the songs. If anything it pokes fun of the stereotyped new ager tendency to keep grasping for something externally that can only be found internally.

Here's where it's not hokey: they really get it. The dharma. It's vibrant, not shallow. Whatever I might try to say fails to do it justice. Two characters, one is Dukkha, not sure what the other one is called but is her twin with the eyes on the hands....maybe she is "Vision/Aversion" They along with a dakini/kali inspired goddess woman make this come to life.

In a way that only musicals can, the cast make the internal visible to the audience, bring out in song and choreography this dilemna that happens in the main character's heart. Dreams, imagined thoughts, waking life, flow together. In the end, Sid follows his heart.

He gets into the cab with the Cosmic Taxi Driver again, where he meets up his friend that he abandoned for the fame track. Now they can harmonize. And the cosmic taxi driver, Dave, says, "Here we are. The corner of Satya Street and Samsara Boulevard." and Sid says, "I LOVE this intersection."

That about sums it up.

At the end, all the cast is seated in meditation...lights fade. The end. What kind of musical ends with people meditating? ONE for ME!

I was absolutely bursting afterwards. First time I saw it, I had the "premium seats" up front but this time I sat in the balcony and that was actually better, I could see more of the choreography. I was ready to turn around and see it again. Instead I rolled down the window, and let the burst out at the people milling on the sidewalk, as I knew how to shout it from many ceremonies past, "Bodheeeeeeeee Svahaaaaaaaa!" My best friend driving cackled and said, "You wild woman!"

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