Sunday, February 03, 2008


I went to the crossroad
Fell down on my knees
I went to the crossroad
Fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above
"Have mercy now,
Save poor Bob, if you please"
"Crossroad Blues" - ROBERT JOHNSON

Throughout history, folklore has been collected and stories written about people who were willing to go to extremes to gain qualities like beauty, power and wealth. There have been various tellings of the Faust legend. Even American blues lore tells the story of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the Devil at the crossroads in exchange for musical talent. It's a malleable bit of source material that can be adapted to any time period.

Human yearning always has been and always will be. While we might not all be willing to sell our souls to get what we want, anyone who has ever been gone through puberty can relate to wanting something so badly we think life won't ever be worthwhile until we get it. That combined with tingly fascination with horror and the Darkness probably plays a big part in making the Faustian story such an oft revisted one. We've seen it in Marlowe, Goethe, Lessing, and even the Broadway musical (Damn Yankees).

The American literary canon has its own version in Stephen Vincent Benét's short story The Devil & Daniel Webster. Set in mid-19th century new Hampshire, the story centers on an unlucky farmer, Jabez Stone, who sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for seven years of love and prosperity. When the day of reckoning comes, instead of relinquishing his soul peacefully, Jabez employs the famous orator and lawyer, Daniel Webster, to argue his case before a hellish judge and jury chosen by the Devil himself.

As luck would have it, Robert Schenkkan's adaptation is playing at the Northwest Childrens Theater Februry 1-24. When some friends invited me to go see the production I was excited (one of my bigger writing projects features the Devil, so I've done a bit of research on folklore surrounding him), but also unsure of what to expect of an NWCT production. Would it be acted, directed and stage managed by children? Would it be adapted for a child audience? Would it look like it was staged by children?

As it turns out the play, which featured young (high school aged) actors as well as adults, was fabulous! While I particularly enjoyed Richard Garfield in his role as Scratch (The Devil), the rest of the production was so good that I never once thought of the younger cast members "They're doing a great job for young people!" Instead, I just got lost in the story, which is as it should be.

So, now that I know about NWCT, I will happily go back. In a world where we don't appreciate the arts nearly enough, I am more than happy to support any organization that teaches appreciation of them to young people!

P.s. In case you were wondering, my good theater/arts parking karma lives. I managed to park right across the street! I hear you universe, and have responded by buying tickets to Sweet Honey in the Rock and Corteo!

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