Sunday, January 5, 2014

Stage Manager

I'm an alto. I'm probably a second alto. My voice breaks when it moves from an A above middle C to a B above middle C. After that, it's all in my head voice. For you non-musical folks who are reading this, that means that my singing range is only a little higher than someone like James Earl Jones (Darth Vader from Star Wars) or Benedict Cumberbatch (Smaug from the recent Hobbit, Desolation).

I grew up in a perpetual state of mild jealousy of the sopranos around me. I wanted to be a leading soprano. Why? Because leading sopranos could get actual speaking parts in school musicals. Since school musicals obviously are such an important aspect of the average middle and high schooler's life, I let myself get depressed every time I was passed over by much higher-ranged voices for the parts I wanted.

I remember the first time I really tried to listen to an alto line. I was singing Trust and Obey with my mother in church, and since she is a second alto, I honed in on the line she was singing. It was one note through most of the song. I leaned over and whispered, "Alto's really boring, isn't it?" She leaned back and said, "No, it's what makes the soprano pretty."

Today, I was thinking about personalities. I've heard it said that almost all personalities will fit one of the characters in Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne. Some people are energetic, vivacious, exciting, go-get-'em. Kind of like Tigger. They live their lives in a crazy circle of activity and social whirl. 

There are the wet blankets. The Eeyores. They have a perpetual half empty glass sitting on their desk, and more often than not, find themselves comfortable in their gloominess.

Kangas are the caretakers. Piglets are the shy ones shrinking behind their curtains, afraid that anyone will notice them. The Owls of the world are erudite, studious, oozing gray matter like there's no tomorrow. Rabbits remind me of a shrew, nitpicking the thread of life until it comes unwoven and picked apart.

And the Poohs bumble their way through life, not really making much fuss and bother, not really letting themselves get upset by anything. They take life as it comes, ebbing and flowing with the tides around them.

It takes all kind of people to make a world. If we had only the sopranos, wouldn't the music we make as we go through life be kind of flat? One-dimensional? Even a little boring? If we add an alto note or two, or a tenor, or a bass, or all of the above, voila, suddenly we have depth, beauty, mystery, undertones.

I see some of Tigger in me, and some of Piglet, and some of Pooh, and a little of Kanga. Owl, well, no. Eeyore, only if I haven't had any chocolate for a week.

Over time, I've come to appreciate the depth that makes life interesting. I will always admire the leaders: the Type A's that take charge and get things done. I'll always admire the lead singers in the musicals who can belt out Climb Every Mountain or Angel of Music without much seeming effort. 

But there will always be someone in the back behind that curtain that makes sure the actor is on stage at the proper time with the necessary props and the make-up in place and the lights on and the music cued up.

What would life be like if there were no stage managers among us?

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