Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
Doolittle and HigginsWhen I was in college, I played violin in the University Orchestra. One year we joined forces with the Theater Arts program to do a production of the musical "My Fair Lady."
If you aren't familiar with the story, an upper-class man (Higgins) takes a working-class woman (Doolittle) under his wing, with the intent of training her to pass for an upper-class woman.
I remember that when we were preparing for the production, the stage area had to be modified in order to make room for the stage props and the dance numbers. Specifically, they extended the stage forward, creating a cave-like structure in which the pit orchestra sat.
Yes, you read that correctly - we actually were sitting under the stage.
This wasn't a problem, for the most part; it just meant that we couldn't see what was happening on stage. But there was one point in the production when being under the stage was a bit nerve-wracking. It was when the musical number "Get Me to the Church on Time" was being done. This was when a group of the lower-class were celebrating that one of them was getting married the next day. Although we couldn't see it, we knew that there was a riotous dance number going on overhead. We knew, because the stage kept shaking and trembling over our heads, as dancers came down with crashing stomping of booted feet. It felt like a party with utterly no pretense or caution; all inhibition was thrown to the wind.
Earlier in the musical, there was a scene in which Doolittle and Higgins attend the Ascot Opening Day Races, and the musical number "Ascot Gavotte" is performed. If you have never seen this song/dance performed, look it up sometime, as it is one of the funniest moments in the movie. All the upper-class turns out in their nicest gowns and suits, and sing monotonically and robotically about the thrill and excitement of the races. To all appearances, no one is actually having a speck of fun.
I suspect the juxtaposition of these two songs in the same musical was a deliberate commentary on the social classes. Is it true that the poor, without the constant demands of social propriety and deportment, may be able to experience and enjoy the fullness of life in a deeper way than most of the upper class ever will?
Perhaps that ability to celebrate life with reckless abandon is part of the high position of which James speaks in the following passage: "The brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation." (James 1:9-10)
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