In short there’s simply not a more congenial spot…
July 8, 2013
Saturday afternoon, July 6th, I was transported for three hours to the court of King Arthur of Camelot.
The transport portal was a production of the musical Camelot at the Texas Shakespeare Festival, housed in the fine arts building of Kilgore College, a place I can see out my office window.
Who would have known that from such a jumping off point several hundred people could journey to a world long lost, or perhaps an alternate reality that is never far from us?
The Texas Shakespeare Festival, now in its twenty-seventh season, is no amateur affair. Each summer it brings a troop of performers to Kilgore who hole up for a couple of months and produce a prodigious amount of live theater. The venue, the Van Cliburn auditorium, is a perfect setting, seating only three hundred or so.
There isn’t a bad seat in the house.
But back to Camelot. For those unfamiliar with the story line it chronicles the life of King Arthur from the eve of his marriage to lady Guinevere to the end of that relationship. Along the way, we meet Lancelot, the greatest of knights, and witness the formation of the knights of the round table. It is a tale of love, loss, betrayal, the conflict between the highest human virtues and the most base.
And the music.
Has there ever been a more beautiful collection of songs in one show? If Ever I would Leave You, How to Handle a Woman, and so many others.
As a writer I was struck by one fact that presented itself with each musical number.
The songs were like chapters in a book, each one a self-contained short story that burrowed deep into a human passion. There were silly songs, love songs, sad songs, all stitched together into a fabric that embraced the fundamental triumphs and failures of people, people who have been the same since the beginning of time.
No story is worth reading, or worth observing, or worth hearing, unless it it full to the brim with conflict. Camelot is a story that could have been an insipid exercise in fluff. But it wasn’t. It could have painted a rosy picture of a long ago mythical kingdom, but it didn’t.
Myth is not escapism, it is a way of looking beneath the surface, an aha moment that transforms as it transports us. It endures because it is true, not factually, but on a human level.
So, too, writing should stand in the mythical tradition. It must sweep up the universal truths that define us and make us consider what makes us tick.
And, when it is all said and done in short there’s simply not, a more congenial spot for happy ever-aftering than here in Camelot.