A NOTE FROM ARTISTIC DIRECTOR SHAWN BELYEA
Hello and thank you for being a part of It’s A Wonderful Livestream. This pandemic has been an incredible challenge for any organization that pro-duces live events. We’re happy to be celebrating the holidays and finding a new way to maintain our tradition.
Working with the creative team this year I found myself repeating two themes. The first one is- “we’re not interested in recreating the movie.” This is important for actors to know that we want their authentic interpretation of the character, not a duplication of something we can already watch. This is critical to us because this event is a celebration of our com-munity of theater makers. One of the true joys of being in rehearsal on this project is to witness the myriad ways these artists bring this story to life. Despite the limitations, this year is certainly no exception, and I’m sure you will be thrilled with the results.
The second part is more difficult. Actors and directors work with “the given circumstances.” So where does this story take place? Where and when exactly is this place called Bedford Falls. While the story is placed in the technologically limited oeuvre of early 20th Century America, we do not want to celebrate that time with any nostalgia at all. We must be realistic about our own history and accept that 1940’s USA was not a time that can be celebrated by all people. We no longer wish to be limited by those ideas, but instead want to build a community that is open and accepting of all people. So then where is our Bedford Falls? Our story takes place in an imaginary world, a place where all people have op-portunity, and all people are accepted for who they truly are. Sadly, this is not the world in which we currently live. So let this Bedford Falls be an example of our better selves. We can accept the truth that we are not there, but if we can imagine that beautiful place, then maybe one day we can get there.
Thanks for sharing this vision with us.
The 14/48 Projects
A NOTE FROM DIRECTOR JOSÉ AMADOR
Why does It's A Wonderful Life, a movie that is now 74 years old, feel particu-larly resonant in the United States this year? While it's true that Wonderful Life is a treasured movie throughout much of the world, I don't think any other culture cherishes the movie quite the way that the US does. I believe the film's resonance to our culture, both this year and in general, comes from a deeper place within the US' character.
IAWL came out in 1946; The Greatest Gift, Philip Van Doren Stern's short story which inspired Frank Capra's movie, was self-published in 1943. Both novel and film came out within 15 years of the ostensible end of the Great Depression in 1933 -- it could certainly be argued that both works were conceived in the shadow of what was then the most devastating economic downturn our country had ever faced. The lingering effects of that fiscal nightmare are felt throughout the movie. During the pivotal depiction of the run at the bank during the first half of the story, Capra and his creative team starkly detail the wanton damage and dreadful panic the community of Bedford Falls goes through while vulture capitalists like Mr. Potter capitalize and exploit the cha-os they create for personal gain.
"Don't you see what's happening," George Bailey, our protagonist, pleads with his frightened neighbors, who are considering divesting their savings and possessions for half of what they're worth. "Potter isn't selling. Potter's buying! And why? Because we're panicky and he's not. That's why. He's picking up some bargains." Is there anything in our day and age more American than this scenario? There is more than scant correlation between the terror felt by the citizens of Bedford Falls and the malaise that currently permeates our nation. A malaise borne from an economic crisis that metastasized in 2008, with roots in deregulation going back at least 50 years, which is enmeshed with an eco-logical disaster we've been playing chicken with for about as long -- we are still living in the shadow of these calamities.
But that's not why It's A Wonderful Life is resonant today, no, especially in the immediate aftermath of our last election. What makes IAWL resonate is the simple, sincere and pure sentiment at the heart of the film; the belief that the remedy for the evils wrought by the Potters of the world lies within your fellow man. It is that spirit, that ideal, that brought the US back from the brink of the Great Depression and into an era of great gain for some, and moderate improvement for others. I believe that we as a culture recognize that we're at the precipice of another prosperous period in our country's history, and we recognize that there is a lot of work to be done in order to truly create an enviroment that values equity. We see that we need to improve the lot of the next guy, whoever they might be, in order for all of us to prosper.
It's A Wonderful Life shows us what this generous and unselfish spirit looks like in contrast to its exact opposite. It is this aspirational ideal that resonates with-in us so loudly. Especially this year, especially in the US.