I had an intense conversation about Helen recently with someone who tends to look more on the realistic side of things than I do. And, I'll be honest--I left that conversation feeling deflated. The enthusiasm that had been driving this project forward had been somewhat squashed.
I don't mean to demonize this person in any way, because I know that everything she said was absolutely valid and said with the best of intentions, which were, ultimately, to protect me from being overwhelmed with disappointment if things don't go as planned. And I appreciate that. And she wasn't trying to dissuade me in any way, just remind me to exercise caution.
Now, I'm no fool. I am perfectly aware that there are many people who land on my home page, read the opening paragraph and think, "Is this girl off her rocker? Does she have any idea how hard it is to get a show on Broadway in this economy? Ha, good luck!" Trust me, I actually say that to myself on occasion. Which makes me wonder: how do you give 100% of yourself over to a project, a person, or a cause, without getting attached to the end results? (That just sounded very Carrie Bradshaw-like.)
Let's face it, that's an existential question that's been posed and pondered for centuries, so it's unlikely I'm going to be able to figure it out in this blog entry. But, it's definitely worth thinking about.
It also happens to be the core question explored in Helen. Just check out the "Quickwrite" questions in this Helen on 86th St. online lesson plan. (The short story is in high school English text books as a contemporary comparison to The Odyssey.) I hate to give away the ending of my musical, but let's just say that Vita's deep desire, the one thing she spends the entire play trying to attain, doesn't happen. And it's heartbreaking. And bittersweet. And, I believe, worth the price of a Broadway ticket to see it unfold before your eyes. Why? Because no matter who you are, no matter what demographic category you fall into, you can relate to it; it's an experience that every human being has encountered at one point or another in their lifetime.
Is Helen on 86th St. a tragedy? Not at all--and here's why: it is life affirming to watch someone fight and struggle to attain something they believe in, even if they fall flat on their face. It's that fight that we respect and recognize. And while Vita doesn't get the one thing she deeply wants, she gains so many other treasures along the way, and especially, in that moment of failure and disappointment.
Don't get me wrong--I'd prefer for Helen on 86th St. to have a different trajectory than Vita's, and sincerely hope it makes it all the way. But the reality is, if you believe in something, you just have to give it all you've got and try to enjoy the process so that the end results don't have so much weight.
Oh, and a little cautious optimism doesn't hurt.