Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Quiet Thing

"A Quiet Thing"
by Fred Ebb
from Flora the Red Menace (1965)

When it all comes true
Just the way you'd planned,
It's funny, but the bells don't ring -
It's a quiet thing ...

When you hold the world
In your trembling hand,
You'd think you'd hear a choir sing -
It's a quiet thing ...

There are no exploding fireworks.
Where's the roaring of the crowds?
Maybe it's the strange new atmosphere
Way up here among the clouds.

But I don't hear the drums
And I don't hear the band -
The sounds I'm told
Such moments bring.

Happiness comes in on tip-toe.
Well, what'd'ya know?
It's a quiet thing.
A very - quiet - thing...

A dual-purpose post today.  The first is to share the WONDERFUL lyrics of this song with you (if you're not already familiar with it ...).  Certainly one of my top ten favorite songs, it made its first appearance in John Kander and Fred Ebb's (Chicago, Cabaret) Broadway debut, Flora the Red Menace, and it was sung by a young Liza Minnelli, who was also making her first Broadway appearance.

The second, and more significant, meaning behind today's post is the key word of the song ...  I was watching the film Hereafter the night before last and it struck me just how QUIET it was.  The movie concerns three people who are all facing death and grief in very different ways ... a sensitive, moving, and introspective screenplay.  There are large portions of the film that have almost no dialogue as we follow each of the three protagonists in their personal struggles with loss.  It's a thoughtful, beautiful exploration of how we face death, and I HIGHLY recommend it if you haven't seen it.

As a director, performer, audience member, and writer, I am always drawn to the POWER of silence on stage, on film, and on the page.  I remember when I first read the script to Rabbit Hole (in which I recently performed) and was thrilled at all the "beats" and "pauses" that were written into the piece.  As a director, I am NEVER scared of adding those beats and pauses where necessary ... they are vital and, when well-placed, do not slow the pace of the work.  They enhance it.  To quote a famous English poet and author, Martin Tupper - "Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech."  AMEN.

Hmmm ... makes me wonder about writing an entire piece that doesn't have a single line of dialogue.  I've written an action-only scene as part of a playwriting exercise, but never a complete piece.  Might be worth the experiment ...

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