"The Last Ship," Sting's musical that ends its run on Broadway this Saturday, has a hold on me.
It is a powerful, exhilarating story of hopes, dreams, disappointments, and triumphs of love.
This musical tells the story of a teenager, Gideon, who flees the ship-building town of Wallsend in the north of England to seek a different life for himself than that of his father, his father's father, and every other man in town. As he heads off to change his fate, he leaves behind his ailing father and his girl, Meg. Fifteen years on he returns to learn that his father's dead, his girlfriend's raising his son with another man, and the shipyard's being shut down, threatening the livelihood of all. What's his place in all of this?
While the plot traces Gideon's journey, "The Last Ship" is a story of love: Parental (father/son), Romantic (woman/man) and Work (being productive). It's also about Community.
It was the Romantic love that captivated me the first time I saw the production, Dec. 16. No surprise, as my own hope for it has captivated me. As a hopeless romantic and optimist, I wanted Gideon and Meg to end up together. That they didn't left me crestfallen.
I rolled this over in my mind as I walked home from the Neil Simon Theatre, trying to resolve this unsettling feeling. My longing for their union mirrored my own longing. It wasn't to be in this story, I realized, because for Gideon the life lesson was Parental Love (his father and himself, then himself as a father to his son). As the Irish priest tells Gideon, "Finish your work," and clarifies that he means the father/son relations not the building of the last ship.
The concept that each of us has a life lesson to learn was discovered through "Many Lives, Many Masters" by Dr. Brian L. Weiss. This book shifted my universe. It showed me, through Dr. Weiss' clinical experience, that we each have a soul that lives many times in this earthly school. We are surrounded by soul mates; not the romantic notion of a single "soul mate," but those we learn from or teach and share a connection over time through many lives. Our soul mates can be friends, teachers, family or strangers we encounter for a lifetime or just a moment.
Reading that book seven years ago sparked a process in me -- reading, thinking, reflecting, relating -- to broaden my view that Romantic love is only one paradigm to express Light & Love in this world. There are many others. In fact, the ancient Greeks had seven words for "love," all expressing different types from romance and friendship to empathy and charity. And Lorna Byrne, the Irish mystic who interacts with angels, covers the importance of all types of love -- for self, friends, parents, children, strangers, animals, planet -- in her book, "Love from Heaven."
All of this opened me to understanding why and how Gideon's relationships with his father and his son were so important to his growth. And showed me, once again, that romantic love is only one paradigm of this energy, not the only one.
I've seen it twice and must catch it again before it closes.
This story and characters are so impactful because of the tremendous talents on stage. [Read "The Last Ship" cast and score are unforgettable.] Seeing "The Last Ship" was imperative because I'm a lifelong fan of Sting's music. Imagine my surprise -- and delight -- when I showed up at the theatre to learn he was appearing in it as Jackie White! The audience's applause drown out the first few lines of the opening song as Sting appeared and sang solo.
Michael Esper's Gideon is so compelling, and he didn't seem to play the role as much as live it. The first time I saw the show I had scored second-row tickets in the box office lottery at great savings and an even better view. I saw the spittle fly from his lips as he spat brusk words to his father. I saw tears in his eyes as he swayed in a dance of promise to Meg ("When We Dance" is my favorite tune on the CD).
Esper conjures all this passion for each performance. It must be exhausting, and it is wildly worth it to the audience. He's touched so many lives with this role and story, as evidenced on the Twitter and Facebook pages of The Last Ship. [Excellent article on Backstage.com where Esper discusses playing Gideon.]
Esper's performance has stuck with me so much so that...
The show and cast were in my dream last night.
In this dream I had arranged for a special showing of "The Last Ship," or elements of it, at a rented castle-like destination for friends and family atop a hill in Maine. Everything was snow-covered and still outside, yet inside was full color with chatter and merriment.
The company went about its preparations for the production, and once in a while Esper and I would catch glances and even hold gaze. He was brooding a bit so as to not to get caught up in the good times of the guests. It seemed deep conversation was begging, but we didn't speak; he was very focused on his role and keeping his performance authentic to Gideon. The show had to go on.
And so it did, and to great reception!
After the production in this small castle-like place, everyone sat down to eat in a casual diner-style setting. I took my spot at a booth with a linoleum table and Esper slid in the seat across from me. On his plate was a cornish hen. On his face was a sober look. Before he dug into the meal, he looked at me and said, "I'd like to hear you say that you want to see me again," and I took his hand across the table and replied with a smile, "Don't you already know I'd like to see you again?"
With that smile -- in my dream and on my face -- I woke up.
Chances are this dream was sparked by listening to the soundtrack before bed; the last line of my favorite song, "When We Dance" (a reminiscence of the teen love between Gideon and Meg, and Gideon's promise for a future). It ends with his words, "I had a dream last night. I dreamt you were by my side. I had a dreeeeeam."
I had listened to the song before going to sleep, but I think it's more*: The dream signals my own openness to such love.
For the past year I had put the search for love "on the shelf" -- for the first time ever, which was a positive thing for me to do. I needed to "unfocus" on it. See, I have sought that romantic partner always. Every coin I've tossed in a fountain -- from the real Trevi in Rome to the faux one at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas -- has been launched with a wish to find my true love.
It's no longer about a search, it's now about openness to being found.
I've always felt that this Romantic type of love -- with a partner and our children -- is the most natural and impactful way for me to share my Light & Love in this world, in this life.
There were some special guys in my life, but they weren't the true love I seek. Finding this man -- this love -- was something I thought would happen and always was open and seeking it. Until one year ago.
That was when I guy I was dating -- for a short time, but seemingly very promising -- just dropped me. No text. No comment. No nothing. "Bad manners" is the nicest way I can put it. For some strange reason, this just knocked me down -- well beyond what it should have and led to my questioning why I was here. Why can't I express all this love and positivity I have to share?
I felt, for many years, like a champagne bottle that been shaken and ready to explode with lovely effervescense! Where was "my guy" to uncork and open this channel of love? The bubbly's at risk of going flat!
This short-lived relationship catalyzed a process already in place, and it made 2014 a transformative year for me. I surrendered all my notions about things, revisited what is fulfilling to me (music, writing, dance, etc.), and I really approached everything from a place of humility and gratitude. I launched this site.
After doing my best to "make it happen" in life, I am now going to "let it happen." This applies to everything -- I give my best and have faith that the right path opens up.
I trust that the Universe has a plan for me to share my Light & Love in meaningful ways.
The cork is off the bottle -- it always was, actually, I just thought it was to be channeled toward my yet-to-be-found teammate in life -- there's an infinite supply of bubbly and it's not just for one paradigm of love. I'm open to all.
Great art moves us. It leaves an imprint.
This is my story of how "The Last Ship" made me think and feel. My friend experienced the show differently. She viewed it through the lens of Meg, who felt torn between protecting her growing son and letting him experience adventure toward becoming his own man. Parental love.
Hundreds of fans of the show shared their favorite moment on "The Last Ship" Facebook page with comments in the signed CD-giveaway post on Jan. 14 (below).
Thank you to all who were involved in creating, producing and presenting "The Last Ship!"
*Hmm, maybe I do have a little crush on Michael Esper? ; )