You’re In Urinetown

“Nothing like too much exposition to kill a show real bad. Or a rotten title — that can kill a show pretty good.”

This week I had the opportunity to see a production of “Urinetown the Musical” as directed by one of my dear friends with his high school students. With my own background in theater, and having the opportunity to see the original show, I was very impressed with the students. Not only did they portray their characters excellently in song and dance, but they really had a grasp about what the show meant. Full disclosure of course that while I kvell for their achievements, they are all still Gen Y members. The students may have come up after my time in school, but they are no less informed and adamant about protecting the environment and being aware of things discussed by the work.

But where are my manners? Without spoiling the plot I can tell those who don’t know the show that a 20 year drought has forced the rationing of water to the point that people have to pay to pee. There’s a love interest and plenty of humor, but the themes and topics are still unquestionably dark for a musical. It is a chilling realization for some as the show makes reference to 19th Century notable Thomas Malthus, an Anglican clergyman who wrote:

“The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world” —Malthus T.R. 1798. An essay on the principle of population. Chapter VII, p61

Malthus’ works underscore his belief that such turmoil for resources among the population was divinely ordained to spur more pious behavior by the public. We may not all see the same perspective on matters of faith and religion, but members of Generation Y seem to have a keen grasp on how the current societal systems may not serve everyone’s needs. Planning and working together is the only way to address shortfalls and problems faced by the people of Earth. Whether we like it or not, we are all down here, and if one of us suffers, there is a chance that we could be affected too.

“Urinetown” didn’t flush away the other dark points as the show covered how people can be manipulated by fear. In a topic that I’ll have to cover again in the future, fear is one of those things that everyone can relate to. If a person lives in fear of something, they can be controlled, and depending on who is wielding the instrument, there can be abusive use of fear. The power is manifest in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words “The only thing we have to fear is: fear itself.” Seeing fear as something that is either unknown or unable to be changed by our actions allows us to guard against being controlled by fear.

This post also reminded me of an interview that CBC radio’s Jian Ghomeshi did with actor, Mandy Patinkin. Mr. Patinkin spoke of fear as being something he lived with, but in its reality, he embraced it until it lost its power. Consider something you fear desperately, and whatever it is, that you are living in close quarters at all times with this fear. Sooner or later, boredom may settle in, and fear will huddle in the corner because it has no more power. We come to know fear by being in the unknown, but with knowledge, nothing can keep us cowering.

Be brave. The world needs bravery in the face of fear. We need to protect the world, and our brothers and sisters. Accept what we cannot change, and fear will fade in the wake of our accomplishments.