When I was thinking about this earlier today I came across an odd realization. I owe a big thank you to Coin Operated Boy by the Dresden Dolls and another big thank you to A Chorus Line. That may sound silly, but I am being completely sincere. Both have impacted my life in huge ways in the past 3 years alone... they have given me the two things I previously mentioned as being lucky for having. Still may sound silly. Relax, I'll explain.
Let's do the Coin Boy reference first. If you don't know the song it's a sort of playful, dark cabaret sounding ordeal that one might say has overtones of loneliness and a desire for a relationship with lots of (physical) affection without the chance of getting hurt... but one is more likely to say it cleverly (though not subtly) talks about a sex toy. My college roommate introduced me to the song and I ended up choreographing to it my junior year. Choreographing a dance to such a musically creative song, in my mind, gave me permission to really play with the movement. Although I had done choreography before, this unique way of looking at dance and creating this piece made me absolutely fall in love with choreographing and helped me find my own style and choreographic voice. Today, anyone who knows me will probably tell you that musical theatre is my first love, but choreography is a close second. I credit that passion for choreography entirely to the process of having created a dance to Coin Boy. I affectionately call the dance "my baby" and know it's what ignited my passion. Without that experience, who knows if I would have ever developed this love for choreography, if I would have ever found my style. But the song did more than open me up to the joys of choreogrpahing. It completely, single-handedly changed my taste in music.
Dresden Dolls in Coin Operated Boy
Pre-Coin Boy, as I like to call the phase (totally kidding) my musical listening included pretty much two things: 1) Broadway soundtracks, and 2) Turning on the radio, station flipping for 10 minutes, getting frustrated that nothing appealed to me, and turning off the radio. I always enjoyed music pretty much entirely because I enjoyed musicals and singing. I was not a "music fan". Coin Boy (as I have affectionately nicknamed the song) completely opened my eyes as to what music could be. The song has a completely inventive use of instruments (or ordinary objects as instruments) along with drastic changes in dynamics, melody, vocal tonality, etc. It made me eager to find as much music like it as possible. With the assistance of pandora and similar sites I soon found several other "dark cabaret" artists and eventually the list expanded to include folk artists, indie rock artists and singer/songwriter types with only one thing in common: they were all very different from what you normally hear. The one song opened me up to a whole world of creative musicians and artists with new, different sounds that often borrow from old influences (one of my favorite artists describes her sound as "modern ragtime"). I love two things especially in music: 1) When lots of different instruments are used. I'm big on heavy percussive beats and equally big on violins/classical piano used in unexpected ways. Though toy pianos, washboards and the sounds of paper being shredded work too. 2) When there are big changes in the song... from slow to uptempo, calm to frantic, major to minor, whatever it is, so long as it's drastic. I now have a solid musical preference and quality I look for in new artists, when before there was no type of music I claimed to be "my music". Now "new music searching" is somewhat of an obsession of mine. Coin Boy not only brought me to my love of choreography, it is the reason I was able to find music that I love.
On to Chorus Line. Where to begin. I'll premise by saying I don't even like the show all that much. Yet, it has managed to have a major impact on me and keeps creeping into my life. I've done the show three times. Read, still don't like the show all that much. Why do it three times then? First off, I like shows with lots of parts... lots of parts means I'm more likely to get one. Secondly, I like shows where some of the main people are dancers... only because I'm so often looked at as "just a dancer" and therefore given a part in the ensemble. I joke around and say I have "the dancer's curse"... once I was offered a dancing role after doing the dance part of an audition, before I had even sung. Even though I was hoping for one of the other roles I was immediately labeled "a dancer". Chorus Line was always the one show for me that I thought I have a decent shot of being something more. I mean, they all have to dance. The only time I was ever given legit parts in shows was after a director had worked with me and decided I was capable of more than just dancing. So even though I never liked the show all that much, I had a strong desire to be in it. Little did I know the opportunity would arise for me to do the show three times in two years. Nor did I know how much each time would impact me.
A Chorus Line
First time, senior year of college. Can't believe I actually have the chance to be in this show. Audition for Cassie, heart set on it. First time in my life I get the role I wanted, rather than my "other choice". I think it was the combination of achieving that, and with this particular show, that had such an effect on me. I became so attached to the role that it killed me to have the show end. I broke down on stage in the middle of my number. I still get this odd feeling whenever I see other women play Cassie. I said then, and I still believe, that I will never be as attached to a role as I was to Cassie. I believe I (somewhat stupidly, through tears) said at the time that that was my moment. That was it. Even if I were to some day "make it", nothing would ever compare to how I felt the first time I was Cassie. Sounds silly I'm sure. But I can't describe how strongly that role affected me.
Second time I did the show had a big impact in two ways. First and perhaps most importantly, it got me involved in theatre again. Before college I did one show a year, if that. During my four years of college I only did the one show. I had pretty much accepted that after college I probably wouldn't be performing again. Or if I did, it would not be happening on any sort of "normal" basis. Maybe every few years something would come up. That's pretty much all I expected. Well, a year or so after graduating I decided on a complete whim to type "Chorus Line CT audition" into google and see if anything came up. I was surprised to see an audition listed for a community theatre group that would be doing the show that summer. I took it as a sign and went to audition. From this experience I found out about all other theatre groups in the state and since that Chorus Line audition less than a year ago I have performed in 6 shows-- more than I had done ever done in my life combined prior, and all in one year. All because I decided to do a little google search on the show, and a group happened to be doing it that summer, I ended up immersed in performing again. Doing what I love. And a lot of it. Here comes other big impact of this particular production-- I found myself incredibly humbled. Like I said, it's the one show I always saw myself as having a chance in... a chance to be more than "just a dancer". Well, what happened? I was cast as Zach's assistant... arguably the only role in the show where you had to be a good dancer and that was it... zero singing, very few lines. Here it was, the one show that I always aspired to be in because I could avoid the dancers curse and I had managed to get a dancing only role. This, combined with the fact that I had so recently just finished playing Cassie, a role I was so attached to and was no longer associated with, took a huge emotional toll on me. Being in that production was incredibly difficult for me. I felt childish the entire time that I got so upset throughout the process of rehearsals. I felt awful and even worse, felt guilty for feeling that way. Yet by the end of it all I had come to terms with everything and I left the experience grateful for its effect on me and with how much I had learned about myself.
Third time I did the show was literally about a month later. I decided I would try to get one of the roles I had so desperately hoped for the previous time. This time I was successful and got to play Kristine. While performing it was a lot of fun, the real impact the show had on me this third time around was not the show itself but in who I met. We didn't really start talking until two months after the show closed, but the guy who played my husband and I are now dating and I'm happier than I've been in a very long time.
So look, Chorus Line gave me my ultimate performing dream role experience, a summer filled with major humbling slash learning and growing, brought theatre back into my life in a huge way and gave me a great guy. And Coin Boy ignited my love of choreography and helped me discover my musical taste. So like I said, a big thanks to Chorus Line and Coin Boy!