Happy Musical Theatre Monday, yo. How are you celebrating? All ways are good ways. Today our guest bloggist is the adorable and talented Corey Ann Haydu, whose upcoming book OCD Love Story is one I’m quite, quite excited for. I will let Corey get to it!
COREY ANN HAYDU: I was meant to be a New Yorker.
Not only in the typical ways: I used to be an actress, I felt wildly out of place in Boston, I never wore fleece well enough to be a real New Englander, I have a Jersey father and like tiny spaces and excellent restaurants and have a pretty underdeveloped sense of smell, which comes in handy walking around in New York summers when the garbage heats up and its smell infiltrated the humid air. Evolutionarily speaking, I was built for the city. And I moved to New York for all these reasons, but mostly because of The Fantasticks.
First things first: I started performing when I was nine. To be more accurate, I started performing when I was six and started listening to musical theatre cassette tapes with my father on long drives from our home outside of Boston to our summer retreat in New Hampshire. I was especially enchanted by Annie, as most six year old girls were, but I also was pretty familiar with Evita, Les Miserables, Oliver, Into the Woods, The Music Man, The Sound of Music, Cats, and many other original cast recordings. I was tiny and really good at reading and had that supposedly charming thing where my enormous belt was in sharp contrast to my insanely tiny frame (when I was nine I was the size of a six year old. Now that I am thirty I am finally the size of an eleven year old). So needless to say I was pretty successful, as far as child actors performing in summer stock productions go.
My parents found that whole tiny-girl-belting thing pretty adorable too, and supported my love of musical theatre. My father used to take me to New York City for a weekend and we would see four shows in the two days we were there. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the big theatre and the sometimes cheesy shows. I had a Cats t-shirt that I tied to the side with a scrunchie like any extremely uncool pre-teen girl in the late eighties and very early nineties was known to do. But I didn’t quite fit in with Those Musical Theatre Girls. I wasn’t outgoing enough, for one. And I didn’t really pull of my side-tied t-shirt with any kind of finesse. And I didn’t really think the sun would come out tomorrow. I had a dark side. The kind of dark side an eleven year old has. You know, the really deep kind.
That’s where The Fantasticks came in. My father had seen it back in his days living in the city with my mother, and knew it was hip. It was edgy. It was exactly the kind of thing his kinda angsty daughter would like.
He was right. I had never been to the village. I had never been to a small black box-ish theatre. I had never seen a show with so few set pieces, so few costumes, such a tiny orchestra. The actors references the audience constantly. I had the belief they were even more interested in me and my adorableness than I was in them. And I was VERY interested in them. I loved that there was a character who played a Wall. I loved that there was something both fairy-tale like and adult to the show. I loved the cheeky tone, the tiny simple moments, the strange leaps in logic.
More than that, I loved walking my Washington Square Park after the curtain call and seeing something wildly different than the diners and bright lights of Times Square that had been my experience with New York City before.
“I’m going to live in the Village,” I said to my father. We walked by a girl in a cool vest and a boy in a cool hat and I knew I was special enough to be part of this side of the city. I liked that it was called The Village. I liked that the buildings were lower and made of brick. I liked seeing a part of New York that I felt convinced no one else in my town had ever seen.
And I just knew I could be the girl in The Fantasticks. I could have a relationship with a Wall and a Moon and wear my hair long and wavy and put glitter on my face and sing songs that sounded less like musical theatre and more like poetry. I could be bohemian and funny in the sad way. I could live in the Village and work in a teeny tiny theatre instead of a big glitzy one. I could be too cool for Broadway. I could be off-Broadway.
Seven years after I saw The Fantasticks with my father, I moved to the Village. I wore long sweater coats and drank coffee at hole in the wall cafes with mean waiters and walked through the Washington Square arch and maybe even had a relationship with it, maybe even heard it sing to me and tell me what to do with my life, which was stay in New York and live in small spaces with big dreams and romantic hair and serious thoughts.
I’m sure there are other reasons I moved here. But not really. Mostly it was the vision of being an artist—the dirty (but still safe! Still beautiful! Still romantic and scripted and glittery!) kind, that brought me here. The Village is still dazzling, off-Broadway is still the tiniest bit dangerous and lovely, and The Fantasticks still brings me to tears.
Corey Ann Haydu is a young adult author living in Brooklyn. Her first novel, OCD Love Story comes out on July 23, 2013, and her second, Life By Committee will be hitting shelves Summer 2014. She has an MFA from the Writing for Children program at The New School, and a BFA from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU where she studied acting and fell in love with NYC. Corey transcribes and discusses her humiliating childhood diaries at formerselfproject.blogspot.com. These days, you can find her at her local cafe where she writes books, drinks mochas and eavesdrops on stranger’s fascinating conversations.