At the age of fourteen, a song was played on the radio that got my attention on first listen. Although the context of the song was not something that a teenage boy just entering high school could necessarily relate to on a situational level, there was something immediate and jarring that resonated immediately. Over time, I have come to realize that the immediate connection with the song was based on the primal emotions shared on the purest of levels. It is safe to say that Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” was playing everywhere in the summer of 1995 and resonated with countless others, too. From first listen, the album where this song lived was unlike any other music that I had heard up to that point in my life. Even now, every time I return to revisit the album, I am simply shocked that someone so young was able to share ideas so personal.
Over the years, Alanis has remained one of the artists who has been on constant rotation in my listening experiences. Having seen her perform many times in concert, act in two Off-Broadway shows, and take part in a TimesTalks interview in person, I can firmly state that her creative influence has been a constant in my life for the past twenty-four years. There are several isolated lyrics from various songs that serve as helpful reminders and mantras in my daily life.
For many years, Alanis had hinted that she had been working on a staged musical based on Jagged Little Pill. As these acknowledgements had occurred sporadically over the years, I had nearly given up hope that it would actually come to fruition. When it was announced that Jagged Little Pill would indeed take a new form at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge last year, I immediately began sketching out plans to make the trip to see it.
Last June, I got up quite early on a Saturday morning and drove to Cambridge to see the show from the twenty-five dollar front row seat that I was somehow miraculously able to snag. What I witnessed was a piece of art that took topics of an uncomfortable nature that people would hope to never be confronted with in their own lives and found a way to weave them into an accessible and relatable story. Overall, I was incredibly moved by the show in its entirety. The collective movement of the actors is one of the most masterfully executed examples of choreography and direction that I have ever seen on a stage. As many others have shared via social media and in numerous reviews, the performance of “You Oughta Know” by Lauren Patten was worth the ticket price alone. It remains the most incredible performance that I have ever seen on a theatrical stage. (A link to a previously published blog post entitled “Standing Ovations” is found below.) The entire cast was so cohesive, and brought the story to life so convincingly. My ferry ride and drive home that day was one of reflection. As a long time fan of Alanis, I was amazed by the relevance of her decades old lyrics being used to bring forth an important story told by Diablo Cody.
In midtown Manhattan tonight at the time of this post’s publishing, Jagged Little Pill is having its first official preview. As I am writing this post, I have absolutely no idea which elements of its A.R.T. incarnation may still exist on Broadway unchanged and which elements have been omitted or transformed in the creative process. Regardless of not knowing these details, my hope is that what ultimately remains in the show upon opening night has the space to be influential on the Broadway stage for many years to come. The characters and their experiences depicted on stage serve to provide an opportunity to spark dialogue and help others process less than pleasant ideas. In these times where the world around us seems increasingly more jagged, opportunities to reflect and process the unpleasantries through art is most critical. Dialogue that can emerge from these opportunities can provide comfort and clarity for those who are directly affected, and also to those who find themselves in the periphery of these experiences. Whether it be a song, an album, or a musical, we should never underestimate the power of a creative entity that may otherwise seem so little. The artistic genius of Alanis Morissette rests in the essence of this idea. The experiences in each of our own little lives are directly connected to the world on a much larger scale. The sharing of these experiences has the ability to help ground and connect one another.
Long live Jagged Little Pill, in all of its forms.
(Blogger’s Note: As I am away from the New York area until December, I will miss the opportunity to see the show’s progress through its previews. My hope is to see it in December, as I keep my fingers crossed for a rush or a lottery announcement. It will be intriguing to see its evolution from its time in Cambridge last year. A follow-up post will be hopefully shared at some point.)