Hadestown at New York Theatre Workshop

O LADY OF SHADES! Guess what I got to see today?

Anais Mitchell’s HADESTOWN as put on by the New York Theatre Workshop!

Here are a few links for those of you who do not know what this musical is:

Wikipedia! NPR! Amazon!

Oh, and here’s this article I did for BLACK GATE MAGAZINEwhere I interviewed the INCREDIBLE ARTIST PETER NEVINS who designed the CD jacket art for Hadestown! (Well, and all the poster art you see for it too–not to mention for the Child Ballads as well!)

And here’s a review of the Hadestown album that Amal El-Mohtar wrote for Black Gate!

And a YOUTUBE VIDEO of “Hadestown” the song!

I guess…I’ve been with this musical since 2011, maybe 2010, and what I NEVER KNEW (though occasionally hoped for/suspected) was HOW MUCH MUSIC WAS MISSING FROM THE CD!

The CD is maybe more like HIGHLIGHTS.

Sure, you can extrapolate the story from the given material, especially if you read Edith Hamilton’s and Bulfinch’s Mythologies OBSESSIVELY as a child (>.>), but there were ALL THE SONGS I’D NEVER HEARD!

Plus the spare, direct, dialogue/poems that SEEM at first glance-off-the-ear to be too simple, almost facile, and then a slant rhyme catches you off guard, snags you, breaks you… And you think, you think, REVELATION, you think WONDER, you think, COLOSSUS!

My series of Tweets from Intermission:

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When Hernandez and I emerged from the theatre, we walked arm in arm a while in the sunny breeze–on this, the first truly sultry weekend of late spring.

After a while, I said, “You know…Right before Hermes repeats that line about how we all know how the story ends, but we keep singing it–because it’s the brave thing to do, it’s brave to sing in hopes that THIS time, it will turn out differently… Right before he sang that, I thought, I mean, I KNOW this is going to end the way it does! I even know where on the stage it will happen. I even know HOW it will be lit. But maybe, I don’t know, maybe this time it will surprise me. Maybe they’ll make it out. Even though they warned me they wouldn’t.”

hadestown-1280x720-1280x720And Hernandez said, “I had the same thought.”

The tears were still drying on both our faces.

What catharsis. What ritual. Old and new at once–AND it had me dancing in my seat.

I told Hernandez, “My friends who edit the mythic poetry magazine GOBLIN FRUIT” –incidentally, after we saw the matinee, they went to see the 8 PM performance– “say that the poems most often submitted are Persephone poems. Well, and Mermaid poems. I mean, I myself wrote an Orpheus & Eurydice/Persephone & Hades musical mess in high school. Here’s a juvenilia line by C. S. E. Cooney: “And down the Lord’s stone face ran tears of rusty iron glistening.” 

I looked at him.

“Carlos,” I said, “I’ve been waiting MY WHOLE LIFE to see Hades cry!!!”

He smiled. “You really have, haven’t you?”

And that’s what this musical–this folk opera–did.

It gave me the tears of the Lord of the Dead. And his big baritone bass. And his cynical face.

And it gave me the bright sharp green of Persephone, and the sunlight on her shoulders. And her dancing. HER DANCING!

And it gave me Hermes, who moved as slinky as a mink and as gravely as thunder. With his voice like gravel and the shuffling of a joker deck.

And it gave me the three Fates–who showed their close kinship with the Furies, their howling outrage, their vulturous aspects, their tight harmonies. How I feared and longed for them.

And it gave me fierce Eurydice, strong and bold and mischievous and afraid and hungry and cold.

And it gave me gentle, gentle Orpheus, with his voice that cracked and soared, his voice as pure as a newborn’s, his frailty, his joy.

Flyer-for-Hadestown-500Truly I can say that my favorite German word (not that I know many) was at play here. Gesamtkunstwerk.

So much masterful art went into the making of this uber-masterwork of art. The costumes, the choreography, the lighting, the bone-pale stage tree–roots reflecting branches–the direction, the musicians–ah, the precision and playfulness of the musicians!

It was lovely. It made me want to work.

The flaws–if they should be considered flaws–are in the gender-locked and old-fashioned nature of the myth itself: What is man, what is woman, how do we perceive each other, how they’re ever in opposition?

Even gender-bending the casting would only go a little way in opening up a wider picture.

But perhaps that is not the job of Hadestown. Perhaps it is the job of someone else, who emerges from their katabasis at the New York Theatre Workshop to a world full of what is possible.

“What story can I tell? What story do we already know that we must hear again–but as we have never heard it before?”

Ah. Good theatre always pisses me off and roils me up and makes me very restless. I am grateful for it. It is the flip side to fertile boredom: fertile outrage. Fertile collaboration. Fertile inspiration.

Watching a colossus (like Anais Mitchell, and the folks at NYTW) at works just makes me want to stand on the shoulders of giantesses.

SSPOn ANOTHER NOTE, but apropos:

I got home and found out that filker and “geeky musician” Dr. Mary Crowell is running a KICKSTARTER to fund her new mythic blues/jazz album “Scattering Seeds on the Pomegranate Tour.”

Here’s the site!


I just supported it myself, before listening to the video even. THEN I LISTENED. And I did NOT REGRET IT!

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