PCS Blog

Standing in the Shadow of The Masterpiece

Posted by Natalie Gilmore | 03 August 2010

The beleaguered string quartet in Opus, our 5th Main Stage show of the 2010-2011 season, is preparing for the gig of a lifetime, playing at the White House. As they argue over what to play, someone mentions Beethoven's Opus 131.  And everyone catches their breath.  Opus 131? It's dark and complicated and long. But it's a masterpiece, the greatest string quartet ever written. How could they play anything else?

Confession: I know nothing about classical music.  I've neer played an instrument and the few times I've attended classical music concerts, my date had to explain everything to me. It's a language I am not fluent in.

But this scene felt so relatable! I've sat in rooms with theater companies arguing over what to produce the next season. It isn't uncommon for the elephant in the room to be The Masterpiece. Someone always has to bring it up at some point. Is this the year to do _____? You know that play you read in college that seemed to encompass every important theme in the world? Its dialog is searing poetry and the main character so complex it has to be described as a tour-de-force for an actor? For many actors The Masterpiece is Hamlet or King Lear when you're older. As a young actor in school, I always dreamed of taking on Miss Julie. My director friends were itching to tackle Angels in America or Death of a Salesman.

But it isn't just artists that have The Masterpiece. My friend the runner talks about the Death Valley Ironman in reverent hushed tones. What about those biking crazies enthusiasts that train all year to do the Seattle to Portland Classic?

What's your Masterpiece?

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