Sunday, March 17, 2013

In Praise of Hobbies

"Where the waving wheat
Can sure smell sweet . . . "
Last night, I went to see a community theater production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma!  I have to admit, although there are other musicals I like more, I have a weakness for this show that goes all the way back to my fourteenth birthday when my parents took me to see a dinner theater production - believe it or not, I still have the program tucked in a box of mementos up in the attic.

I left humming snatches of various tunes - as I almost always do when I leave a musical.

It was a good production, too.  Musicals are tough to pull off in any event and Oklahoma! has a few special twists to it.  The show itself is historically important and is often cited as the first American musical to use the songs to actually propel the action forward, as opposed to being dropped in to the show to provide a thin excuse to have pretty chorus girls twirling about.  It's unashamedly optimistic and upbeat, yet has that oddly languid Agnes de Mille "dream ballet" sequence at the end of the first act.  It's loaded with stereotypes and a large part of the plot involves the "buying" of Ado Annie, which bugs me in a way that my 14-year-old self ignored.  Still - I like Oklahoma!  (The show.  The state's got some problems, especially in their legislature, which is fond of personhood and anti-science bills. So far, none have made it into law, but try, try again seems to prevail.)

And here's what I really liked about last night's show - community theater.  Look, it's not put on by professionals, and I likes me some Equity razzle-dazzle.  But - there's something gloriously pure about people cheerfully sacrificing their all-too-precious free time to learn their parts, sew costumes, build sets, shift scenery, hang lights, and the half-million other things that must be done by the time the curtain rises in return for nothing but applause and maybe a rose with a spray of baby's breath given by a family member after the curtain call..

We all need hobbies.  That idea of "all work and no play" making Jack a dullard is a good notion to hold up to the light every now and then.  Think of how much more interesting cocktail party conversations would be if they started with the question, "What do you do for fun?"  Not "What do you do?"  Almost everybody I know needs a paycheck and that, of course, eats up the majority of their time.  Not much choice there, so what someone does for a living might be interesting (and heaven knows that all too often we allow ourselves to be defined by our occupation), but what someone chooses to spend their rare free time on - that will tell you something deep and true about a person.

What do you do for fun?

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