Thursday, December 30, 2010

History, sexypants-style

I recently learned about the impending closure of the Broadway show Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. The title suggests the musical is another case of vampires attacking a historical figure, but it's actually a show that attempts to make history—a subject notoriously known for its dullness to most Americans—exciting, sexy, and relatable by portraying the seventh president as a rock star.

I've never seen Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, but I love the concept. Die-hard Jackson buffs probably cringe at the idea of the guy belting out emo rock tunes in "sexypants," but I think the modernized take is a brilliant way to lure the history-hesitant masses into a lesson about the past.

I'm all for public education, but let's face it: high school history textbooks are boring and watered down. So many bizarre and intriguing footnotes to history don't ever get mentioned, and juicy tidbits about historical leaders, rebels, and everyday folk get edited out. My love affair with the past started with novels, classic movies, biographies, historical sites, and Disneyland (yes, Disneyland), but even I HATED memorizing and spitting out dates and names for tests.

I tip my hat to anyone who can create a clever way to bring history to life. It's unfortunate Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson's Broadway run was such a short one (the economy is said to be the culprit), and I hope it finds welcoming off-Broadway homes in the future.

I'm trying my own hand at using a unique way of resurrecting a bygone era in my novel-in-progress, which is another reason why I appreciate the efforts of others. When my agent first chatted with me about Blackbirds, she told me she didn't feel like she was reading historical fiction, which she meant as a compliment. My goal all along has been to tie the story to modern events, and the time period I chose to write about is such a bizarre one that I've found it easy to portray the history as science fiction. We'll see if the final result will go anywhere, but I'm having fun in the process.

Here's to digging up the past with alternative shovels!


Ara Burklund said...

Interesting musical. Have to admit, I've never heard of it. But then, I'm not too big on following the show circuit.

I agree about BLACKBIRDS--your worldbuilding is seamless. Doesn't feel like history, just fun! Sounds like you might be done revising, then?

Cat Wintes said...

I'm almost done. I'm guessing I'll be able to send the new version to Barbara by February, depending how much work time I get in January.

I'm so glad the book isn't coming across as a boring history lesson! Too many people get scared away when they hear the words "historical fiction." Maybe I should throw in some sexypants. ;-)

Cat Winters said...

Darn it--my last comment was written by Cat Wintes instead of Cat Winters. I guess I should have signed in the regular way.