|Flights of the Forensic Imagination is a collection of all things "forensic" in news, media, and art.|
With music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik (a Tony Award winner for “Spring Awakening”) and a book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (“Good Boys and True,” “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark”), the musical was originally mounted last winter at Almeida Theater in London, with its artistic director, Rupert Goold, staging the work to mixed-to-positive reviews. Mr. Goold will direct the show at Second Stage.
Mr. Aguirre-Sacasa, in an email on Monday, said that he was making some revisions to the book and that Mr. Sheik was writing a couple of new songs. “We’re going to put a bit more ‘psycho’ in the text and production, a little more horror and suspense,” he said.
Carole Rothman, the artistic director of Second Stage, also noted that the production would have an all-American cast; the role of Patrick was played in London by Matt Smith, a star there from the television series “Doctor Who.” Casting will be announced later.
“And there will be a lot more BLOOD!!!” Ms. Rothman added in an email."
For all its technological sophistication and hefty price tag, modern medicine may be doing more to complicate the end of life than to prolong or improve it. If a person living in 1900 managed to survive childhood and childbearing, she had a good chance of growing old. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a person who made it to 65 in 1900 could expect to live an average of 12 more years; if she made it to 85, she could expect to go another fouryears. In 2007, a 65-year-old American could expect to live, on average, another 19 years; if he made it to 85, he could expect to go another six years.
Another factor in our denial of death has more to do with changing demographics than advances in medical science. Our nation’s mass exodus away from the land and an agricultural existence and toward a more urban lifestyle means that we’ve antiseptically left death and the natural world behind us.
At the beginning of the Civil War, 80 percent of Americans lived in rural areas and 20 percent lived in urban ones. By 1920, with the Industrial Revolution in full swing, the ratio was around 50-50; as of 2010, 80 percent of Americans live in urban areas.
For most of us living with sidewalks and street lamps, death has become a rarely witnessed, foreign event. The most up-close death my urban-raised children have experienced is the occasional walleye being reeled toward doom on a family fishing trip or a neighborhood squirrel sentenced to death-by-Firestone. The chicken most people eat comes in plastic wrap, not at the end of a swinging cleaver. The farmers I take care of aren’t in any more of a hurry to die than my city-dwelling patients, but when death comes, they are familiar with it. They’ve seen it, smelled it, had it under their fingernails. A dying cow is not the same as a person nearing death, but living off the land strengthens one’s understanding that all living things eventually die.
Mass urbanization hasn’t been the only thing to alienate us from the circle of life. Rising affluence has allowed us to isolate senescence. Before nursing homes, assisted-living centers and in-home nurses, grandparents, their children and their grandchildren were often living under the same roof, where everyone’s struggles were plain to see. In 1850, 70 percent of white elderly adults lived with their children. By 1950, 21 percent of the overall population lived in multigenerational homes, and today that figure is only 16 percent. Sequestering our elderly keeps most of us from knowing what it’s like to grow old. This physical and emotional distance becomes obvious as we make decisions that accompany life’s end.
Suffering is like a fire: Those who sit closest feel the most heat; a picture of a fire gives off no warmth. That’s why it’s typically the son or daughter who has been physically closest to an elderly parent’s pain who is the most willing to let go. Sometimes an estranged family member is “flying in next week to get all this straightened out.” This is usually the person who knows the least about her struggling parent’s health; she’ll have problems bringing her white horse as carry-on luggage. This person may think she is being driven by compassion, but a good deal of what got her on the plane was the guilt and regret of living far away and having not done any of the heavy lifting in caring for her parent.
With unrealistic expectations of our ability to prolong life, with death as an unfamiliar and unnatural event, and without a realistic, tactile sense of how much a worn-out elderly patient is suffering, it’s easy for patients and families to keep insisting on more tests, more medications, more procedures."
To the natural philosophers of the 17th century, paper was a technology of memory and survival. It held out the promise of a life after death. Yet without proper care, papers barely outlived their owners. “You are not very young, & a mortall man,” wrote John Aubrey, nearing the end of his life, to his friend Anthony Wood. He wanted to will his papers to Wood, but he worried that when his friend died they would fall into the hands of an untrustworthy nephew, who would stop his guns with them or put them under pies. Aubrey was one of those who, in the end, deposited his papers in the Ashmolean Museum; they can still be consulted at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Paper’s promise of life after death still depends upon its finding a secure institutional home in which to lie protected from the accidents of flood, fire, and pie-baking.
Yet even under the best of conditions, what kind of immortality does paper offer? Dressed in their paper bodies, the voices of my mother and grandmothers were both near—just there beside me, inhabiting the house—but still impossibly far away. The letters my mother wrote to me in college—she sometimes kept one open over the weekends, filling it with conversation about church, visits with my grandmother, details of lunches in the city with my father and my brother—now seemed so reticent in their dailiness. I wanted them to disclose to me an inner life to which I no longer had access. Here was a resurrection of my memories, rather than of the dead themselves."
The lovely Liz Argall invited me to share a bit about my Clarion 2013...
This has been a great week.
I And You just opened at Olney Theatrea day after...
drinking, conversing, and listening to MBMBaM
discussing bird tongues, whether it would be better to have to live off of krill or algae, what the...