With Iphigenia 2.0 nearing the end of its initial run, and gearing up for the extension, we are now looking ahead to Queens Boulevard - the musical. At the beginning of every Signature production, the Artistic Team (A Team, as we like to call it) produces a hefty binder of dramaturgical research that fleshes out the world of the play, its characters, and their preoccupations for the benefit of the production team of the new show. Inspired by an incredibly diverse range of sources, including Kottayam Tampuran's The Flower of Good Fortune, Homer's The Odyssey, Kalidasa's The Recognition of Shakuntala, James Joyce's Ulysses and the usual Meeist assortment of blogs, journals and news articles, Queens Boulevard - the musical uses the story of a new groom's impossible quest to find a Flower of Heaven for his bride as a structure to explore "The New New World," a series of plays in which Mr. Mee examines the interracial co-existence and pan-cultural fusion that he believes to be the natural condition of the society of today. (You learn this information after spending hours with the research binder, as I have!)
To augment the existing Queens Boulevard research for the mid-October start of rehearsals, A Team daytripped to Jackson Heights last Tuesday to scout the inspirations and locations of the play. Everything one assumes to be a New Yorker norm was arrestingly displaced: a lone Dunkin Donuts shop lost in a sea of ethnic bakeries and groceries, sari stores displaying their wares on mannequins that appear oddly Caucasian, a cheap lunch at a diner offering a buffet of curry, lassi and rice pudding with nary a burger or milkshake in sight. An extraordinary multi-lingual soundtrack accompanied the day's travels to a busy pan-cultural pre-school where parents waited in a cheerful gaggle to pick up their kids, an intimate Indian patisserie where tempers flared while customers haggled for discounts and personal care salons where manicures and pedicures were but two of a whole catalogue of services offered (other services ranged from bindi application to "monobrow separation"!).
In his essay Music, Movement and Text, Mr. Mee calls for a theatrical form that is more complex than the domestic psychodramas of Ibsen and Miller. He argues passionately that human existence and human understanding far exceed the tidy post-Freudian psychological conclusions dictated by what has become the normative mainstream theatrical experience. Life is more random, more imprecise, more enchanting than the inside of a living room, and Mr. Mee argues these ideas in a more thrillingly random, imprecise and enchanting arena than even that of the Greeks in Queens Boulevard. His vision of the theatre is the most compassionate of lenses to filter the melting pot of Queens toward distilling an understanding of what it feels like to be living in the world right now.
... we are asked to deal with reason and feeling head and heart
text and spectacle
amazement and wonder
precision and haziness
all at the same time
and this feels more like the complexity of life we all know
in our own lives ...
from Music, Movement and Text (Mee)