"It's the impossible made possible; and most care to witness that." (stock image courtesy of Microsoft Office Images)
Okay, let's be real. Theater is always on anyone's mind that takes the time to read this blog. But this week and next, there might be something a bit more pressing that captures our attention: The Olympic Games. It's Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Misty May, Rebecca Soni, Jordan Weiber, and countless other big-name athletes that sway our emotions during this epic, once-every-four-years sporting frenzy. This year's Games take place in London -- the land of industrial growth, national health care coverage, music and literary icons, and, of course, Mr. Bean.
And recently, I've started to wonder, what is it about the Olympic Games that makes us care so much?
Part of it is a sense of pride for the United States. Red, white, and blue aren't just the colors of our flag during the Olympics but the symbols of the country that our greatest athletes represent. For two weeks, Americans aren't divided over political parties or economic status; we're united in every bronze, silver, and gold medal that comes out of the Games. But there's something else that is more concretely captivating about the Olympics. Something that makes everyone want to tune in, not miss a second that counts.
I think it hit me when I went to see Bring It On: The Musical on Tuesday night. The show was witty and personable, and I thought the cast was exceptionally talented. It was a bit disappointing that the plot left out memorable movie characters (W-W-Whitney and Big Red, to name a few). But what really got me were the cheer stunts. They were incredible! These performers were dancing, jumping, flying, tossing, sliding, cheering, and clapping like I've never seen before. There was so much energy. The cheerleading national championships--the grand finale--featured some of the best choreography I have ever seen on stage. While people will remember the cute, bubbly Campbell and the spastic Eva, I think what will really stick with the audience is the movement that dominated the show.
So I put two and two together. It's this sense of physical admiration that makes the Olympic Games so spectacular and stunts in Bring It On: The Musical so epic. You're watching the TV screen as the gymnasts leap into the air and the swimmers glide across the water, thinking, "how is that possible?" and "how much practice did that take?" It's the same kind of questions that ran through my head at the show. Seeing three girls being thrown into the air then caught in sync had me pretty sure of the answer to the question, "is there such a thing as perfect?"
Athletes are some of the most celebrated people in this country. They stand for the golden values of hard work and honor. We care because we're more than impressed; we're humbled by their magnificent achievements. And performers--they too stand for something bigger than themselves. By pouring everything into a story with universal values, they amaze us by making us completely unassuming. So that, even for a couple hours in a show or weeks in the Olympics, we can care a lot about something that matters to us, if even just a little.
There's so many things that I can't do, and even the things that I can do there are people who can do it ten times better than I ever can. So watching the best of the best at the Games and the most talented of the pack on stage doing something that 95% of the population can't even attempt likens us to focus our attention on the many sports in London and the one at the St. James Theater. It's the impossible made possible. And most care to witness that.