Monday, November 21, 2011

Way Down in Hadestown (on falling in love with Orpheus)

Way down, in Hadestown, way down under the ground... The music swells and crashes through my eardrums. My feet take on a life of their own beneath my cramped theater seat. I can smell stale popcorn and I am sitting in the same seat where hundreds of sweaty teenagers wondering if they should hold hands or kiss their date or run away during the intermission.

But I'm falling in love with this crazy folk opera, Hadestown, the telling of the Orpheus and Eurydice story set in the Depression in America, with the Fates who sing about life when the chips are down, with a Hades who croons in the lowest bass possible about songbirds and walls, and with this Orpheus and Eurydice in front of me.

There is no stage. No sets or costumes or even the faintest glimmer of planned choreography. Eurydice isn't wearing white, or whatever I picture her wearing. She is a petite blonde firecracker with a guitar and a voice that shivers and shakes.

There is only the music. Only the words nestled between the notes. Only the voices that carry us down by long dark roads and telephone wires, to the underground speakeasy, to the wall between Hades and the world.

Have you ever listened to someone tell a story so good it made you want to stop everything and write? 

Have you ever heard a piece of music that made you want to learn to sing, just so that you could for a brief moment echo the beauty that you heard?

That's Hadestown. 

That's the story of Orpheus and Eurydice.

I wish I could take you there with me - to the cramped, dark theater on a Friday night with Lillie. I wish I could show you how my heart raced and laughed and longed for a pen. I wish I had the words for how music can coax you out from those safe shadows and remind you about how you are creative, how the stories won't leave you alone until you make something beautiful. 

So what? I ask myself as I come towards the end of another blog post. So what about those stories? So what about the gut-wrenching moment of yes? So what about that Italy dream, that unfinished book I have in my head, and those three plays and the poems? So what about Orpheus and Hadestown?

What difference does any of it make?

I want to create. I want to wander through the forests of words without any idea of where the path goes. I want to write the way Anaïs Mitchell sings. I want to tell the stories. I want to make something beautiful.

Why is it so hard to admit? Why is it my best-kept secret, that before all else, I want to write?

The music continues to swell, beckoning me from the birdcage I've built of expectations, of "what-Hilary-is-like" and "what-Hilary-can-do" and "what-it-is-that-people-believe-Hilary-should-do."

And for a moment I can just see it: the gut-wrenching yes to making music with my words. To write the stories, and those plays, and the poems. To go to Italy. To fly out of the birdcage and towards the sea.

Maybe the first story will be Orpheus. 


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