7 Stages of Musical Theatre Insanity

7 Stages of Musical Theatre Insanity
(For R.C. & J.M. – with great affection)

You just needed some green beans for your pork chop dinner, when right there, between the hominy and the peanut butter is the woman of your dreams. What to do with the song in your heart that is fighting to burst forth? Naturally, you do a spontaneous tap dance with the clerk and three other customers and then grab her hands for a harmonized duet, allowing the melodic strains to take you both to the peaks of brand-new, but absolutely true, love.

At least, that’s what you’d do in Musical Theatre. In real life, bouts of unplanned singing tend to be met with the side-eye from grocery store clerks. There’s an old saying that goes, “Behind every great musical, there is an equally great, but clearly insane, Director.”

That’s not true. I just made that up.

In reality, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Below is a rare glimpse into the mind of a Director as he (or she) trips through the following psychological land mines with varying degrees of success.

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Shelby Eatenton Is Real

“How is that baby ever going to understand how wonderful his mother was? How will he ever know what she went through for him?”

— M’Lynn Eatenton, “Steel Magnolias”

A note from author Robert Harling under the cast of character descriptions in the play “Steel Magnolias” reads: “The women in this play are witty, intelligent, and above all, real characters. They in no way, shape or form are meant to be portrayed as cartoons or caricatures.”

Robert Harling was serious. Shelby Eatenton is real.  I don’t mean real in the metaphysical way in that she’s real because I was one of the very fortunate women to bring her to life. Or the countless other women who have proceeded me in bringing her to life. I mean, and he means, she was a real young woman who really lived, and who really died.

She was his sister, Susan Harling Robinson.

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