“How about this title,” she turned to her wife with a pause so pregnant doctors would induce a labor were it not just a metaphor, “Pastrami Ennui.” Her professor wife looked up from her pile of biology exams but said nothing. “Like pastrami on rye,” she continued, “but ennui.” “I get it,” her wife glanced at some sophomore’s hideous misunderstanding of cell walls, “it just isn’t that funny.” “You didn’t like Grungy Jumping, either.”
The love of her life taught upstate, she was willing to live in Albany’s suburbs to be together but the distance from Manhattan hadn’t taken her out of the theater scene. Indeed, there were times being the only avant-garde director around was advantageous in a big-fishy small-pondy way. In New York mashing “King Kong” and “King Lear” together into “Cordelia’s Revenge” wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow but in Schenectady, everyone left the theater so confused they could only hail it a masterpiece, so they didn’t look like uncultured swine.
So, when friends offered crazy money to write a Broadway show stitching together a passel of unrelated 90s rock songs into a musical with an eye toward film adaptation, it wasn’t so much selling out as it was taking on a challenge outside her wheelhouse. Her producer-friends got the cachet of her cutting-edge name while she got a giant advance and a puzzle to solve, though she couldn’t really start until she had a title.
The producers’ working title “Forever in Flannel” was rubbish, even they had known that. All that mattered was Frankensteining hit songs together into musicals (We Will Rock You, Mama Mia, Jersey Boys) was profitable and their license to a bunch of grunge songs because their agent had saved Courtney Love from a recent scandal. It’d obviously take place in a CD store in 1995, love triangles, brooding, moping, big chain tries to buy out their plucky shop, yadda yaddas yadda, all the while bursting into tunes by Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden with their edges sanded off for Broadway. It’d be easy once she had a title.
“Why would anyone go see it, though” her wife asked, to get her mind off the student confusing chloroform with chlorophyll, “that music’s decades old, why would anyone care now? Why not Lady Google?” “Gaga,” her wife laughed, “and even she’s five years ago, but that’s the point.”
“This wouldn’t be for kids, anyway,” she smiled, “these shows never are. They’re for aging folks searching for legislated nostalgia, safe simple narratives about their culture, about themselves. A flattering mirror they can hold up to the pasts and pretend everything was fine. It’s not about the now, it’s a meat grinder repackaging ugly imperfect memories into a shelf-stable bologna-loaf of reminiscence. It’s about-” she was hit by realization, knocked her wife’s exams off the table and kissed her full on the lips, “my God, you’re a genius!” then ran off to start writing.
And that’s how the modestly-successful jukebox-musical “Angst for the Memories” got its name.
Last updated April 05, 2019