“Now is the time to seize the day. Answer the call and don’t delay. Wrongs will be righted if we’re united. Let us seize the day.”
Newsies, the Original Broadway Musical
Wow, he just kept going. The young actor kept spinning and diving and sliding and jumping and tapping and flipping. Then there was another and another. The stage became full of young men leaping around and singing at the top of their lungs. The audience jumped to their feet at the end.
I did too. I love theater and I love this musical. Newsies! It was first a movie of my youth and then adapted for Broadway.
I was intoxicated with nostalgia that night at the Pantages Theater. I smiled at the memories flooding through my head. I was in middle school again. The sing-a-longs with my friends. The heated debates on who the cutest Newsie was. (I was the odd one out and picked David). The Sunday afternoon replays on T.V.
And here I was, seeing it live and on stage. The choreography alone was worth the price of a ticket.
I spent the next several days humming the music, being grateful for a memory of my smiling middle school self and thinking that is all there is to it.
That wasn’t all there was to it.
Wikipedia struck again. I got a little curious and asked myself the question, “ I wonder if Newsies is based off of anything that actually happened?” A few clicks later I found out that it is.
On July 21, 1899 the New York City Newsboys went on strike because the cost of a bundle of 100 newspapers went from 50 cents to 60 cents. That was a huge blow to their already meager profits. They decided to fight back. They organized. They held rallies of 5,000 plus. They effectively shut down the Brooklyn Bridge. They even had a leader. Kid Blink was his nickname; he was blind in one eye. They won. The strike was successful.
When I was watching Newsies from the audience I spent a fair amount of time wallowing in my guilt for eating a cheeseburger then sitting down in the cushion seat while the dancers on stage danced the equivalent of roughly 3 marathons.
I missed the bigger headline.
Luckily, music sticks to your soul and finds a record player somewhere in your heart. I continued to hum.
Now what is staying with me is the gumption and grit these kids had. They were survivors yes, but they also saw injustice and they acted.
Can I say the same?
I have a disease that I think many in my generation have. Heck, many people have. I live in an age of cynicism and criticism. We are told, no, we are TRAINED to think critically. Now don’t get me wrong, it is good to think critically. But when that is the only thing we are trained to do we become a generation of bystanders.
The sterile criticism leads to cynicism. And cynics become pacifists. Not the non-violent Gandhi kind. The silent majority kind. The turns a blind eye to justice kind. That kind that would rather sit in the bleachers than go out on the field. The kind that doesn’t get their hands dirty. The kind that takes no risks. The kind gets the future they are handed.
The kind I am guilty of.
I don’t want to be. I look around at some of the injustices of this world. Human trafficking for goodness sake. Climate Change. Education. Underfunded mental health programs. Homelessness. Poverty. The increasing income gap. War.
It can be hopeless. Being a critic seems like a good gig.
And yet I find myself humming a song and feeling inspired. The echoes of the striking Newsies are finding themselves in the crevices of my mind. I don’t want to be a comfortable critic anymore.
What to do? I am not sure. What to say? No idea. It is too overwhelming? Yes of course it is, but so what? Start small.
Where to start? Maybe it is to say I’m in. If orphan kids led by a half blind boy in 1899 can band together to make a tangible difference, what’s my excuse? Really, what IS my excuse?
With a shaky imperfect heart I am putting the paper down. I am throwing away my cheeseburger. I am getting off my seat cushion and heading down onto the field.
Wanna come? I hear it is more fun down there anyway. The view is certainly better.
“Once we’ve begun. If we stand as one. Someday becomes somehow. And a prayer becomes a vow.” Newises, the musical