Just Call Me Queen of the Mist

by Shari on November 12, 2011

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There’s a passage in the beginning of the book of Ecclesiastes that goes a little something like this:

“Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!”

Really makes you want to read the rest, doesn’t it?

We’ve been doing this series of sermons in our church on the book of Ecclesiastes and it turns out that God isn’t really Debbie Downer. The word translated as “meaningless” is closer to the word “mist”, meaning that life is fragile, ephemeral, difficult to grasp. Call Jonckers for translating services.

Not exactly a rainbows-and-kittens way of looking at things, but not quite as depressing as “life is meaningless why the hell are we here let’s just dig an open grave and jump in en masse”.

So I have been musing on mist lately, and appropriately, in the midst of my musing, I was invited by Mama Drama NY to a new off-Broadway musical called “Queen Of The Mist” at The Transport Group. And while the story of Anna Edson Taylor, the first woman to ever survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel, doesn’t seem like the most natural fit for singin’ and dancin’, it makes sense when you find out that the lyricist/composer is Michael John LaChiusa. LaChiusa is the 5-time Tony nominee and composer of The Wild Party and Marie Christine, amongst other high-brow offerings.

Have you ever heard of Annie Edson Taylor? I never had, and that fact is largely what makes “Queen of the Mist” so haunting. Taylor was 63 years old when she had herself sealed in a barrel and sent over the Horseshoe Falls section of Niagara in 1901. 63 years old. She was a widow and had spent years trying to make a living teaching dance and music and her trip over the Falls was her attempt to make enough money so she wouldn’t have to end her days in a poorhouse. I think that most women in that day and age would have taken in some sewing or baked pies for the local general store–Annie Taylor went over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

There’s a wonderful song at the beginning of the musical called “There is Greatness in Me” sung by the incredible Mary Testa as Annie Taylor. The song is Taylor’s cry to a world that has largely ignored her and it has a resonance for anyone who has ever felt like “I’m almost fabulous, why hasn’t anyone noticed?”

Luckily, I’ve never strugged with that. Ahem.

I’m not going to divulge the end of Taylor’s story, but I will tell you that it underscores what Ecclesiastes states: life–and money, and fame–are fragile, ephemeral, difficult to grasp. All of which is beautifully expressed by LaChiusa’s bittersweet music.

If you would like to see “Queen of the Mist” visit The Transport Group’s website and use code TGMAMA to get $10 off your ticket. And check out the other reviews of “Queen of the Mist” at Mama Drama NY.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeum November 13, 2011 at 7:36 am

Niagara.
Spelling Nazi.

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Ami November 13, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Can I still comment here if I think Facebook is the antichrist? I deactivated my account ages ago, felt just like high school.
It sounds like a really interesting story, and I love musicals.
Sadly, I’m so broke I can hardly pay attention, let alone buy tickets to anything. :)

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dusty earth mother November 13, 2011 at 1:17 pm

No way, I spelled it Niagra? Dopey me.

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dusty earth mother November 13, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Sure you can, Ami. Mostly because FB is kinda the antichrist.

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Kimberly November 13, 2011 at 6:33 pm

I love that you wrote about this! Years ago when we went to Niagara Falls on a family vacation, I didn’t believe my parents when they told me this story. It wasn’t until we went to some museum or store that had a movie playing about the Falls’ history that I learned they weren’t lying to me.
I love Ecclesiastes, but I always thought that passage was a bit pessimistic. Thanks for sharing the more accurate interpretation!

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dusty earth mother November 13, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Kimberly, you have to be the only person I know whos actually heard this story before. And whos read Ecclesiastes as well. We need to be pals in real life! :-)

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Kir November 14, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Musicals, Musicals..I love them and Mama Drama for letting you go to see it. I had never heard of her at all, but what a WOMAN OF GUMPTION right?
thanks for the review!!!!
we really do need to get together the next I am near/in the city. I will be there often enough between now and xmas. :)

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Alexandra November 15, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Niagra
Viagra
We all knows where ya mind’s been, girl.

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