I’ve been on a theatre tear of late. In the past few weeks I’ve seen six shows, attempting to make up for some time spent in hibernation mode. This happens sometimes. I got mired in whatever I happen to be working on at the moment and have to be gently nudged back to civilization by my friends. The joy of sitting in the dark of a theatre with my favorite people experiencing a transcendent moment of performance is a small miracle that brings an all too rare feeling of perfect contentment that I can squirrel away for a rainy day.
Once is definitely one of those small miracles. It had been on my list of things to see ever since it opened, and I finally got the chance to see it. Actually I’ve seen it twice in the last couple of weeks. I saw it and was completely charmed by it the first time, so much so, that I immediately wanted to see it again just to determine whether it was a crush or true love. Luckily, Michele B. breezed through town last week, and we decided to go to the theatre together. A treat in itself because usually we’re working so hard when we’re together we hardly have time for anything else. Even though I had just seen Once, when it came up on her list of possibles I leapt at the chance to go back. And yes, I discovered that it is indeed true love.
There’s so much to love here. It’s a one set show that bucks the trend of bigger, louder, faster, with an unconventional love story at its heart. The innovative use of movement and the pop score with shades of Celtic and Eastern European musical forms make it feel both brand new and traditional all at the same time (my personal aspiration as a musician). The songs are used not so much to move the plot forward as in a traditional musical, but act as subtext and back-story.
What I think made me fall head over heels though, was what the show has to say about soul mates. This isn’t the idea of the romantic soul mate that charges into your life and sweeps you away to live happily ever after (sorry for the spoiler, but the show doesn’t end with the time-honored happy ending), but the promise of an Artistic Soul Mate. That person that enters your world for a brief time be it a few years, months, days or even hours, and in that time inspires you to see yourself in a new way. Sometimes they’re romantic partners, there must needs be chemistry in all things after all, but more often the love affair they inspire is with your art. The Artistic Soul Mate can appear right at the point of abject creative despair and instinctively they are able to kindle the spark that brings you back from the brink. An Artistic Soul Mate just gets you, no explanation necessary.
I’ve been lucky to have a few of these in my life, people who could see me clearly even when I couldn’t. Whose words and deeds pointed me in the direction I needed to travel. I will forever adore Once for the reminder that such people are out there.