As a writer, I am frequently asked, “What books most influenced your writing?” I have my stock answers — Lord of the Rings, Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni books, a bunch of other old favorites. But last week, I heard a segment on NPR that completely threw me for a loop, because it made me recognize a huge influence on my writing, one that I’d never consciously thought of before.
The musical (music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz; choreography by Bob Fosse). About the son of Charlemagne, sort of. About the quest for the meaning of life, sort of. About sex, drugs, and rock and roll, sort of.
I first saw Pippin in the late seventies. I was visiting my grandmother in Los Angeles, and she had tickets for a production at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. For reasons long lost in the mists of time, my grandmother didn’t go to the show; instead, she sent my cousin and me.
I remember being absolutely, 100% enchanted by the performance. And I remember being somewhat embarrassed by the show — there were scenes about men and women (and men and men and women and women) who were sexually interested in each other. There was rather suggestive dancing. There were somewhat revealing costumes. I wasn’t quite sure what to say to Grandma when she asked what I thought of the performance.
But, in my heart, I loved it. I loved the lyrics. I loved the music. I loved the costumes and the staging and the laugh lines and the sheer energy of the entire thing. And most of all, I loved the message — all about what it takes to be free and committed and independent and bound and, and, and.
I can probably sing every single word of the musical, by heart. I used to use the soundtrack as one of my writing pieces, because I knew it so well that it didn’t disrupt my creativity.
But it wasn’t until last week, it wasn’t until I was listening to the NPR segment — about the current revival in New York — that I realized something I’d never consciously thought about. Pippin is about a person who goes on a quest. And while he’s searching for the meaning of his life, he comes across a troupe of traveling actors. He becomes one of them, only to find that his future does not lie with them.
And when I heard that, when I thought about that, I realized that I’ve told that story over, and over, and over again. Rani Trader finds her Players. Keara finds her Travelers. Even the As You Wish Series is about women finding their true selves against the backdrop of contemporary theaters.
I love the otherness of acting, the ability to literally and figuratively don masks. But I never realized just how deep that love was, just how early I learned to tell that story…
(Incidentally, the revival of Pippin sounds ***amazing***, with circus performers interspersed with the acting company. ::eyes New York with longing::)
So? How about you? Ever had a deep epiphany about what you write or what you read? Care to share it?