Sunday, October 16, 2011

Taking the Godspell to the public square

My legs are sooo soooore. From 9:30 to 1:00 pm on Saturday, Oct. 15, I jumped and danced and shimmied and clapped and slapped my thighs, rehearsing with 84 other people for a "flash mob" appearance in Times Square in support of the Broadway revival of Godspell. As I am an investor in the show, I thought this was a wise move. [Pun intended.] Who am I kidding - the chance to rehearse in a Broadway studio and be part of an Event in the middle of the Great White Way - sign me up!

Perhaps in keeping with the inclusive message of the Gospel, uh, sorry, Godspell, we were a remarkably diverse bunch - young, not-so-young, tall, short, thin, not-so-thin, dancers, actors, at least one writer (moi), teachers, all sorts. One woman had flown in from San Diego, another was there with her daughter, a man I met named Patrick had come in from Phoenix.
Rehearsing for the Godspell flash mob event. 

Our choreographer, Nancy Renee Braun, put us through the four sections of the piece, along with some professional dancers starting things off and punctuating some transitions. What a motivated crowd we were, clapping after we successfully executed every succession of eight-counts. It occurred to me that working in theater is like being in perpetual high school, but with grownup requirements such as reliability, leadership, teamwork and persuasiveness.

There was much talk about how the event was in keeping with Godspell's message of love and joy and community, but one of our dance captains stepped in it a little when she said the musical "isn't religious." Well, I'm not particularly evangelical, but in the interest of accuracy, yes, it actually is. What's regrettable is that Jesus has been used as a bludgeon rather than an inspiration so many times. The Christian message - love God, love thy neighbor - needs no apology, and maybe Godspell is a vehicle that makes it simple and clear.

Just before the flash mob
We worked like crazy, lead producer Ken Davenport showed up to see the last few run-throughs, we got a very brief lunch break, then made our separate ways to Times Square, where speakers had been set up around a space on the pedestrian mall next to the TKTS half-price ticket booth.

Spectators were already waiting to see what might go on in the space when a lone girl walked into the center and blew a couple of long notes on a bugle. Our dancers started their joyful swoops around the space to "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord," then we mobbers seemed to flow out of the crowd to "Day by Day." Then, whoosh, the beat started rocking and we started hopping. Halfway through, we took off our jackets and bloomed into a sea of red Godspell t-shirts. You can see it here

There are a couple of other videos on YouTube, taken by people on their phones. My favorite overheard line from a woman chatting to her companion as they film: "This looks rehearsed." I'll say! As we picked up our jackets and walked away, a woman asked me, "What's Godspell?" I answered, "The 70s rock musical, based on the Book of Matthew." 

Now, I'm off to get the Advil. I'd do it again - in a flash.

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