Obviously, this podcast and blog is not political. We’re here to celebrate Elsie Fest and things related to Elsie Fest, like Broadway and musicals on TV. But to some extent Broadway has always been political, and I feel like I need to write something right now about what’s going on in our country. I’ll keep it away from political parties, but if you just want to know about the giveaway, come back Friday, and if you just want to listen to a new podcast episode, come back Monday.
After the election, I had a moment where I thought maybe I should give up on the podcast. I thought maybe instead of dedicating my time to celebrating what is essentially an entertaining spectacle, a potential opiate of the masses, I should spend my time doing something more concretely activist to make the world a better place. I could march on Washington, or raise money for a cause, or volunteer at a soup kitchen.
And then I had another moment where I turned to my husband and said, “I want to move to Elsie Fest.”
And I realized that statement was not just a joke. Because I didn’t just mean that I wanted to live my life at a concert. It isn’t just the entertainment at Elsie Fest that I love. It’s a lot more than that.
I remember sitting at Elsie Fest feeling really happy, and then realizing that it was still 2016. I remember marveling at the feeling of being celebratory and relaxed and happy during what has been a really unpleasant year in so many ways. I remember sitting in the back of the room looking around and seeing two middle-aged men kissing each other in the aisle, and then seeing a dad jog to keep up with his kids who were running up to the concession stand, and seeing people of all races and genders, all while Todrick Hall was twerking up on stage in heels. I remember eating a shrimp roll (it’s like a lobster roll, but cheaper) while my Kid ate empanadas next to me.
The thing is: safe spaces are important. They’re important on their own, because of the respite they provide to those who need them. But they’re also important because they allow us to see what is possible.
I don’t want to move to Elsie Fest because it’s a party. I want to live in a world where everyone feels safe being who they are. I want to live in a world where people celebrate what they have in common while allowing each person to embrace her individuality. I want to live in a world where people also trust each other enough to stretch a little bit. We all heard music that day that isn’t our cup of tea, but we didn’t object to it. We celebrated it, or we walked away for a few minutes and let the people who loved that thing do their thing. Or maybe we discovered something new that we didn’t know about before, but we love now (hello, Corey Cott and Todrick Hall!)
The thing is, art matters. It matters for itself. It matters because it lets us try out the world in different ways to see what works. It matters because it lets us see others in a new light. And it matters because creating a safe space for artists often means simultaneously creating a safe space for society’s outcasts. It always has.
So I’m going to keep doing the podcast, and this blog, and I’m going to keep tweeting news about Broadway and all the work that Elsie alums are doing, because all of that matters. It matters whether you’re using it to take a break from reality so that you can gear up for the next fight, or whether you’re using it to learn what’s possible in the world.
Benj Pasek tweeted last Wednesday that all he can think about is how to create empathy. That got me really excited, because it’s the job of writers to help create empathy, and I’m excited to see what he creates next. Well, the thing I’m making right now is podcasts, and so I’m going to make the best podcast I can and try to use it to make the world a better place. A place that has more art in it, and more safe spaces for the “kids who are just a little bit different” from everyone else, as Elvis Duran said at Elsie Fest. And who knows? Maybe someday the whole world will be a safe space. And then I can live in it.