Full Circle: A Song Cycle

The following are excerpts from my journal in the summer of 2016, when I first conceptualized my song cycle. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can take a listen here). These excerpts are raw, unedited, very personal, and filled with run-on sentences. Many of them were written in the middle of the night after busy days of writing music for the show, most of which I eventually cut. I hope sharing these with you will give you a clearer picture of my intentions and goals, as well as encourage you to ask yourself some of the same essential questions I posed (left unanswered in my journal) in writing this show. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

On Sunday morning at 2 AM, a gunman walked into an LGBTQ nightclub and shot and killed 49 people, wounding 43 more (that we know of right now). It makes me so sick to know that my children are going to grow up in a world where people still aren’t accepted for who they are. It makes me sick that this is “just part of our culture” now. And most of all, it makes me sick that we as Americans aren’t seeming to learn from our mistakes. Isn’t this proof that whatever we’re doing isn’t working? It just seems to me that we should be actively trying to find ways to change our behavior to spark change in society, rather than just expecting it to either fix itself or fall apart. 

In the meantime, I think I’m going to write a song cycle in response to the shooting about people throughout the past two millennia who were systematically taught that they should be afraid to be who they really are. Because when we change that attitude, we can end the hatred that dominates so much of our current culture. I will not let my kids grow up in a world like this. It just isn’t right. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

My moments of discovery:

  1. Hatred comes from our own insecurities or other things we have been taught.

  2. We have not become a more tolerant society. We have simply shifted our intolerance around.

  3. Insecurity is permanent within our world.

  4. Vulnerability, though difficult because of #3 is completely necessary in order to learn/grow.

  5. In terms of American culture surrounding Orlando, we use words like “terrorism” to distance ourselves from the hatred that caused it.

  6. There have always been/still are so many people who feel afraid for their lives/safety because of an inherent trait that they can’t control. And this is ridiculous.

  7. Love is what matters, because genuine love has nothing to do with the self, and everything to do with others. It transcends the ego associated with insecurity and therefore hatred.

  8. Asking everyone to agree is unreasonable, but asking everyone to recognize and celebrate different opinions is not.

  9. We have to accept our insecurities and ourselves in order to fully accept others, but accepting ourselves does not necessarily lead to being universally accepting. 

My goals:

  1. Explore the idea of hatred, its origins, its manifestations, and ultimately, ways to fight it. 

  2. Draw historical parallels to show people that we are not a tolerant nation and that is a problem. History is not linear.

  3. Spark a discussion on what do to when your group is under attack. [running from vs. running to]

  4. Force the audience to self-examine their own hatred, where it came from, and how it manifests itself, as well as the role others’ hatred has played in shaping their lives.

  5. Discuss the role of fear in hatred and hateful acts.

Monday, June 27, 2016

If insecurity and hatred are permanent, can we change the way they manifest themselves so that we can create a safe world for self-expression? Is that a solution at all or would that just encourage us to push it down?

Personal essential question: Am I really accepting of everyone, or do I just accept them because I know they need acceptance? Is there a difference?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

More moments of discovery:

  1. It’s hard enough for some minority groups to accept their own identity without extra difficulties from others.

  2. People who are close to you matter a lot, and their opinions matter equally as much. Often, they’re the ones making you feel afraid because they don’t see the consequences of their words/actions or they have convinced themselves they know you better than you know yourself.

As we look to improve our nation’s track record when it comes to violence, it is important to recognize that hatred, as a result of permanent individual issues, has been present in societies forever, and fear, as well as vulnerability, has been crucial in the spreading of these toxic attitudes. Are there hateful actions without hateful intentions or vice versa? Is there a difference between societal limitations and self-imposed limitations? Is one easier to overcome than the other?

Being condemned by family, society, etc. denies you the chance to live the way you want to. What does that mean? I will never be able to understand because of my privilege as a straight white woman. But is living in fear really living at all? 

Fear of what? physical harm, vulnerability in being alone, losing love from those you care about, losing your voice, losing your credibility or ability to make an impact, standing out

Essential Question: Why do we crave acceptance? Do we ever really get it?

Emotions involved with hatred: anger, sadness, jealousy, envy, discomfort, insecurity

Essential Question: Does “true” hatred always lead to destructive action being taken? 

Friday, July 1, 2016

I’m getting to that point where I want to quit. This always happens to me. If I don’t use up my inspiration in 2 weeks, all of a sudden the whole project seems too hard and pointless. But I can’t let myself give up on this one, it means too much to me. 

[at this point I found this article, and wrote short little bios of every victim in my journal]

We are all going to have an obituary at some point. 49 obituaries say “shot and killed at Pulse nightclub.” Many of those are as a direct result of their sexual identity. All of them are a direct result of hatred. What will my song cycle characters’ obituaries say? “Died of illness,” “Died peacefully in her sleep”? Unfortunately for these minority groups, “committed suicide” or “was a victim of an act of discrimination” are much more common. Being killed by an act of hatred drastically changes the way you’re remembered, regardless of what you did while you were alive. It’s always like that when death is out of the ordinary. And I feel like that’s so twisted because not only can a killer accomplish their goals, but in remembering a victim’s life, we remember the murderer’s actions before the victim’s. These people are taking advantage of the fact that we have no control over our fate and how it is told, and they’re shifting the victims’ stories to make themselves the main characters. Not only are they taking the physical lives of these people, but they're also taking over the life stories of those they kill. It scares me that in one action people have the power to completely redefine another’s existence. You go from “gay man” to “shooting victim” or from “teen girl” to “rape survivor.” Your entire self goes away. Your whole identity comes from something someone else did. How does that show how we value life? That a tragic death can erase all the importance of a full life, or at least color it with sadness. Everything comes with qualifying statements that take away from the truth of accomplishment. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

This month alone, 856 people have died and 1,169 have been injured as a result of unnecessary violence or terrorism. 2,000 lives have either ended or dramatically changed in 15 days.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

All of a sudden, I want to quit again. I recorded all of my rough demos last night and this morning for the 8 songs I have finished, and I realized how not proud of them I am. It’s really discouraging to know how much time and energy I’ve put into something that I’m not proud of, especially when I believe so strongly in the concept. It’s not that I think the show is bad, it’s that I think my show is bad. These stories need to be told, but I’m definitely not doing a good enough job. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this insecure and completely incapable in my entire life. 

I hate to end on such a negative note, but I simply didn’t write any more about the show in my journals. This was the reality of my process: I got scared, and that paralyzed me for almost three years. I kept trying to build the courage to produce the show anyway, just to get it done, but there were more challenges than I anticipated. From the logistical issues of not being able to perform in my ideal space to completely valid criticism of me not having the right to represent these minorities, the setbacks I faced threatened my creation, as well as my concept, which obviously was difficult to handle. But nevertheless, I finally had a production a couple of weeks ago that you can view here. The feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive, but didn’t ignore the complexities and difficult topics I set out to address. And for that, I am grateful. I hope this post has given you a little insight into my thought process while writing this show, and will encourage you to examine the world we live in as critically as possible. That’s the only way we can break the circle. Have a wonderful day :)

Reagan Casteel