One of the things I love about growing up in Fayetteville, Arkansas was the Walton Arts Center, where this small town gets big fancy plays. Whenever one of my friends becomes famous and I become a financially stable entourage member, I’d like to contribute some money. Get my name in the program as the “Stage Hand” level of financier.
The great thing about the Walton Arts Center is not only that they offer student discounts at half price, but also that they don’t really check if you’re still a student. On Thursday, forty minutes from my house, I realized that a) I didn’t have my old student ID, and b) I may have thrown it away in Turkey when I was packing to come home. Every ounce counts for those airlines.
As I jogged to the box office in the rain, I quickly created a story about how I was taking one Tuesday/Thursday class and would graduate in December. Abstract Algebra with Dr. Xidong, which is a class I actually took and then withdrew from, so I still need it. I made it to the desk and said, “I’ve really messed up. I forgot my student ID and -”
“That’s okay. What’s your name?”
“- Dr. Xidong in Abstract Algebra -”
“Xidong with an ‘X’?”
“Yes. Wait – my name’s Trumbo. 010179495.”
“It’s okay. Here’s your tickets.”
It’s been a year and a half since my ID worked, but this is the fourth play I’ve used it for a student discount. I figure that I have less money now than I did as a student; it’s intention, not legality. Plus one of the Walton’s just got arrested. Plank in your own eye, authority.
Holly and I saw West Side Story, which starred a number of look-a-likes as Sharks and Jets. I just know I went to high school with A-rab and Anybodys. They didn’t seem to recognize me shaking hands after the show.
The play has been “updated” to convey the reality of the cultures. All the Puerto Rican songs were in Spanish, which happened very subtly. At first, I thought – “How amazing is it that Stephen Sondheim was bilingual?” After the second song I didn’t understand, I slowly began to realize that the other times I’d seen this play, I hadn’t had this problem. After Maria sang “I Feel Pretty”/”Me Siento Muy”, I snapped in victory and shouted, “It’s been translated!” The woman behind us said, “Of course. Puerto Ricans speak Spanish.” Earlier she had let it slip that she was a drama major, and we should respect her authority on this.
Despite the growing Hispanic demographic in Northwest Arkansas, maybe two percent of the old, rich white people in the Walton Arts Center on Thursday spoke or understood Spanish. Maybe another 5% had read enough about this play to expect Spanish. So though everyone exited the theater exclaiming how thrilled they were with both the play and its modern edginess, at least all the husbands were thinking, “Why weren’t there subtitles?”
It was enjoyable, though. There was a heavy emphasis on ballet; the fight choreography was less believable and more stylizied, with a lot of high kicks and pirouettes. The character Action was still as frustrating as ever (I was hoping whoever did the translation might kill him off in the first act finale – alas, he survived through the end, again).
Someone’s Motorola went off during Tony’s swan song. It ruined the moment for me. I was primed to really feel sad and then all I had was anger for that old person. And still Action. I can never forgive him.