Change the Narrative

Written by: April Vargo


This week I was teaching one of my group classes, "Shows That Changed Musical Theatre."  I actually designed this class at the request of one of my students.  She is incredibly involved in all aspects of musical theatre, but felt that delving into the evolution of musical theatre as a genre and the shows that have made it great, just aren't covered anywhere. 

I was super excited to design this class....however, when I started doing research I felt a tinge of disappointment.  The shows that made a huge difference were shows that I always strayed away from.  They were shows we had to watch in music class as kids, everyone always produced these shows, and after a while it was kind of boring.  

Fortunately, we always had music class in the schools we went to, unfortunately, when it came to the genre of musical theatre it was pretty much sing a few of the songs and watch the video on VHS.  These shows can be pretty lengthy, so it may take at least a week, if not more, to get through all of it. When that movie was over, we went on to the next topic and that was the end of discussion.  Needless to say, I remembered these days and made it a point not to repeat what, unfortunately, seemed the norm.   

The funny thing is, I have a degree in Music Education, have been involved in music and theatre my whole life and realized I didn't know the true background and history to the genre and shows itself.  

This week we were discussing "Oklahoma!"  I wasn't super pumped going into it, however, when I hunkered down, I found out some really amazing facts and background information. 

  • This show was created during the end of the Great Depression and WWII, 
  • It tested the rules and went against the status quo
  • Brought a novice team together that struggled to get funding due to lack of reputation - but ended up being incredibly successful both socially and financially
  • Was the first show that Rogers and Hammerstein worked together on
  • Argued for talent versus just sheer looks
  • Used the music, libretto, lyrics, staging, and dancing to tell a story
  • Provided hope and sense of identity / purpose for the Troops and citizens as they continue to suffer effects of the Depression and WWII

I actually found myself engrossed in the storyline with a new appreciation for the music and show itself. 

I presented this information to my student with the exact intro I just said here, my experience in music classes and my initial lack of enthusiasm.  She actually shared with me that she had similar experiences as she has been growing up, that when she initially saw the list in the class syllabus, she was a little shocked.  By the end of the class we were both so pumped about the show and subject-matter itself. 

It got me thinking - bigger picture.  The lack of enthusiasm, background knowledge, information, and the why helped to shape my opinions and dislike.  This was then potentially to be passed on to others.  What we say and do absolutely gets absorbed and passed on to other people.  Even if we feel that others aren't watching or listening, there's always someone watching and / or listening, especially now with the uptick in technology and social media.  Information is easily spread.  

If educators approached their subject-matters with a sense of enthusiasm, purpose and the bigger-picture, can you imagine what type of students would be created?  If adults approached their jobs and careers with a sense of enthusiasm, purpose, and the bigger-picture, can you imagine what type of personal fulfillment and joy would be created?  If people had open, educated dialogues without an agenda or preconceived notion, can you imagine how much easier people would get along and what could get accomplished working together?

Sometimes, I think we hold onto information from the past without evolving and looking towards the future.  It's so important to constantly be evolving, learning from our past, and getting excited about what's to come.  The opportunity to inspire someone is at every turn!  Make today great, make a difference, change your perspective, and essentially change the narrative.  

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