BWW Blog: Chaos, Conflict in BONNIE & CLYDE
Chaos, Conflict in Bonnie & Clyde
Drama is conflict. This is an innate truth of the narrative arts that people of every culture can recognize. Movies, films, plays-even anecdotes that are told over drinks after a long day at work: without conflict, these exercises in story-telling are pointless reconstructions of events that do not force action or evolution. Even Ikea instructional pamphlets have the underlying potential for a troubling struggle; if you lose the specifically-sized Allen wrench, you run the risk of your bookshelf forever sitting in a heap of cheap boards in the back of your closet. Choas. Conflict. Drama.
It's no wonder that the literary canon that chronicles and dramatizes its parent-culture's historical events tends toward stories and occurrences with inherent drama. War stories. Sports stories. Stories about epic heroes: their rise to power and their inevitable fall from grace. One such story that has continued to capture attention and imagination is the tale of Bonnie and Clyde: brash outlaws during the "Public Enemies" era of modern American history. The true events surrounding the exploits of the two young criminals are rife with the very fabric of a good story: fugitives-young and in love, on the run from the inexorable arm of the law that serves to uphold a moral standard that a country in depression could barely hope to maintain on any given breadless, workless day. Add writers, who take those kernels of conflict and turn on the bright lights: the result is a story of two kids from poverty who yearn for something more glamorous-Bonnie dreams of dressing and flirting like Clara Bow; Clyde aspires to the criminal master-ranks of Al Capone. Two meandering souls find each other in the chaos of a world run almost dry of traditional possibilities, recognize almost immediately the harsh reality of their impending separation through imprisonment or death, and wander the mid-west, connected through a mutual, unquenchable desire for importance that is seemingly only attainable through notoriety, the sad consequence of youthful thrill-seeking and the desperation of the time.
Out of the Box, Santa Barbara's musical theatre company (run by artistic director Samantha Eve), is in the rehearsal process for Bonnie & Clyde (book by Ivan Menchell, musical collaboration by Don Black and Frank Wildhorn), which opens at Center Stage Theater Thursday, April 3rd. The theatrical process of reinventing these characters and the story for them to relive again and again over the next several weeks is, in itself, a story pregnant with chaos and conflict. With a cast, crew, and band of almost 30 people, how could everything or anything run without issue? How do the guns work? Ask Katie, the stage manager. Who pushes the bed on and off stage? Ask Katie. How long is the entr'acte? Are those the Browning Automatic Rifles? How do we clean the stage between scenes after Bonnie and Clyde throw clothing and personal effects asunder, and then run off stage in the heat of passion? Ask Katie.
Poor Katie. A Stage Manager's work is never done until the show has closed, been struck, and the actors and producers are at the bar celebrating a successful run.
But amidst the chaos and conflict, both within the play and at the level of the production, lies the joy of a story well told. The characters meet, fall in lust, then love, sing about it, and die tragically. "Dyin' ain't so bad," Bonnie (Katherine Bottoms) sings, "as long as we both go together. It's only when one gets left behind that it gets sad."
And so it goes for the play and the production-inexorably married in the creation and perpetuation of a story that draws us, the creators and appreciators, together in the common understanding of a struggle that is relatable and therefore memorable, one that exemplifies the very extremes of the human capacity for conflict. The outcome, for both Bonnie and Clyde and Out of the Box Theatre, is the same: when it's all said and done, both can be described as having experienced the satisfaction gained via a level of commitment to a story that encompasses the very essence of human emotion: Choas. Conflict. Drama.