Impresarios’ Essays


What’s Great Literature for

If it’s Not to Shed Light

On Our Own Humanity?

by Dean Paton

I know this may sound odd – since you’ll put on a mask to attend this dance – but the Masquerade is not about hiding yourself or covering up; it’s about revealing more of yourself to the world.

We remind dancers each year: The Masquerade is not a Halloween party in January; it’s a night of public theatre mixed with live music, dancing and cabaret that encourages you to celebrate a part of you that seldom, if ever, gets seen by others.

Of course, you don’t have to take your Masquerade experience this deep; it’s perfectly perfect to arrive in a simple mask and mystify all of your dance partners just for pure intrigue. But every year a lot of us see the Masquerade as an invitation – public permission – to bring forth a part of ourselves that usually remains hidden. A chance to evolve and expand who we are in the world.

This year’s theme seems especially conducive to this end: “Immortal Characters from Great Literature.” For example:

Let’s say you’ve always felt a bit tentative about your life or your job. You dream of great adventure as you write code for the next-model Osterizer. Okay, well, think about who from literature you might become for one night, a character that might help you start living

your dream: How about D’artagnan, from The Three Musketeers? Or Captain Ahab from Moby Dick?

Feeling constrained by your place in the social order? Or sexually

oppressed by a double-standard culture? You could have a lot of fun with the title character from Tolstoy’s great novel, Anna Karenina. Or any of the Russians, frankly (try Mr. Golyadkin from “Dostovesky’s “The Double.”)

Or let’s say there are people – dancers, perhaps – you think are two-faced phonies but nobody ever tells them so. Remember Hamlet’s great soliloquy:

This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou cans't not be false to any man.

You could dress as the tragic sweet prince, and tell your partners what you really think of them (in mask, of course. You can choose to fawn over them once you remove your dis-guise).

Or how about Saul Bellow’s Eugene Henderson (The Rain King), repeating, “I want, I want, I want” as you/he dance about the ballroom? Or, given the theme, you’d be perfectly within your literary rights to come as “The Cat in the Hat.”

Great characters aside, no one would complain if you came as an immortal author of great literature: Shakespeare himself, or the flamboyant clothes horse Tom Wolfe, science fiction master Ursula K. Le Guin, George Sand (a woman with a man’s nom de plume ), Mark Twain (a.k.a. Samuel Clemens), Hunter S. Thompson (did he write fiction or nonfiction?), Alice Walker, Lewis Carroll (with Cheshire Cat in tow, as he was writing “Alice Through the Looking Glass”) or the bizarre Gustave Flaubert, who penned one of my favorite axioms: “Be regular and orderly in your work, like a bourgeois, so that you can be violent and original in your work.”

Point is, use a character, or that character’s purpose in literature, to mine your own dreams and hopes, and bring these forth at the Masquerade.

The idea is to use your “dis-guise” to reveal something about who you are – somewhere inside – or who you want to become.

The Masquerade is just there to assist you and your whole self as it evolves and blossoms. And has fun at one of the best music-and-dance events of the year.

Immortal. Flawed. Lovable. Unreachable. Feared. Followed.

You and Me. Then and Now.

by Susan Balshor

Carl Jung and I might have been friends if I had been so fortunate to live in Vienna during his life. I’ve admired his work for over 40 years. He synthesized wide and murky concepts into a desirable, if still illusive, model of the ideal of wholeness of each man. Who doesn’t want to be “whole”? I don’t mean perfect. I mean whole.

Before Jung, long, long this day and forever into time, writers have created characters who are flawed and compelling and we travel through cotton pages marked with ink to follow them on their journeys toward wholeness. Some characters stay with us decades past their arrivals in our lives. Others are forgotten as we turn that last page.

Jung and Joseph Campbell wrote about the experiences and emotions - recognizable and typical patterns of behavior - that result with certain probable outcomes. These generic versions of personality are called archetypes. They are present in every culture and found in folklore, prehistoric myths, psychology and literature. Jung incorporated the use of archetype into the exploration of the Self.

In a life well lived, each of us will act out our growth through a progression of personalities or archetypes. These universal stories will be echoed in our daily lives. Hopes, dreams, disappointments and successes.

This year’s masquerade invites you to wear a moment from your past or your desired future. Wear your passion, your mystery, your innocent face of first love or be the character you most fear will be your garb at death’s door.

Jane Eyre or Mr. Rochester, Rhett or Scarlett. Would you be Sarah Woodruff or Ernestina Freeman to Charles Smithson? Can either Tristan or Isolde allow you to reveal your heart? Or perhaps you are still pining for the Romeo or Juliet you lost.

These, and all the immortal characters that reach into our minds and hearts, help us to heal and to grow. Catharsis arrives in unanticipated moments of self- discovery, often in association with another.

The masquerade will be fun. It will be entertaining. It will be memorable. Everything else it shall be, will be determined by you.