The Catharsis of Theatre

Dionysus has had his eye on me this summer, guiding me to an eclectic array of new theatrical offerings, all of which have given me the beautiful gift of catharsis.  Catharsis is a term I give my AP Literature students to use in their discussion vocabulary because it is a very palpable and easy-to-understand term since order to understand catharsis, one must experience it.  And have I experienced it this summer!

I was extremely fortunate to witness the closing night performance of The American Repertory Theatre's world premiere production of Jagged Little Pill, a musical using the songs of Alanis Morissette.  It must be known that I am an Alanis Superfan having seen her live countless times.  She was my first CD and my first concert; she holds a special place in my heart.  And so to hear her songs tell an original story about a family with pill addiction and gay characters, I was once again moved by the same songs that developed my sense of identity as a child.  It was a new catharsis, but borne of the first time I heard her CD on my Discman back in the 90s.  I must have cried at least 3 times before intermission and again, one last time, at the end of the musical when there is an enlightenment through the darkness.  I remember audibly gasping for air because I was so moved by what I was experiencing.  Catharsis makes the story and the experience deeply personal, and ultimately, unique to the person going through it.  I had a personal awakening in the Loeb Drama Center at The American Repertory Theatre in Boston on July 15th, one I will not soon forget.

And on the flip side, last night I had the pleasure to see Moulin Rouge! The Musical, also in Boston. (Boston was THE place to be to try out theatre this summer!)  Context here: Moulin Rouge! the film is one of my favorite movies of all-time.  Like definitely top three.  So to be able to see a stage version of this movie musical, I was essentially living a 17 year old dream.  When Moulin Rouge! (the film) came out, I was a freshman in high school and it was the summer before 9/11 changed my world forever.  I was discovering who I was sexually and I remember after seeing this movie, I felt a step closer to belonging to this world.  That same feeling reared its head last night.  And boy, have I missed it.  The catharsis of seeing a show that immediately brought me back to 2001, complete with the feelings and emotions I was feeling then, were exactly what I needed in 2018.  I needed some clarity of my place in the world and in my identity.  These last few years have been harrowing to liberal-minded individuals like myself.  I feel like my 14 year old self knew this moment would come, but I'm here just happily enjoying it.

Theatre is such a powerful force.  I will continue to send my life exposing youth to the powers, wonders, and life-changing benefits a life in the theater can give a person.  I'm traveling for the next few weeks , so I may not post for the remainder of the summer.  But that school year will be here before we know it!  Time to enjoy the freedom of summer while I can!