From the beginning of January through the end of March of 2014 I had the pleasure of working on the production of Les Miserable performed at Pentacle Theater. I was very involved in the blocking of the production. The director, Robert Salberg, assigned me all of the large group numbers and most of the scenes that were love scenes. Apparently, these kind of scenes are not his favorite to block. However, I love the process of blocking! I gladly took them on. In the end, I blocked 82 of the 98 pages of script. 🙂 I also helped decide lighting and scene changes for the show. Because the cues were fairly complicated, it was necessary for my to call the show as well. The best part about the show was working with my beautiful daughters once again. Hannah was cast as Eponine and Lillian worked as a follow spot operator.
This show is one of my proudest accomplishments. I must say that I love the story. I greatly admire Victor Hugo.
Hugo was a well-known and respected author of his time. Contemporaries gave the novel negative reviews, especially for its ponderous diversions into architecture, religious orders, the Battle of Waterloo, layout of the streets and the history of the sewer system of Paris, etc. – all of which do nothing to advance the story. However, although the poor of the time were almost universally illiterate, it was a wildly successful bestseller and was translated into several languages the first year of its publication.
The musical focuses mainly on the theme of ValJean’s Redemption.
From the beginning of the play in the primitive, dark and bitter conditions of ValJean’s unjust imprisonment there is an arc to the dazzlingly brilliant white wedding of the pure Cosette and Marius – made possible by ValJean’s conversion to a force for good in the world, and finally the reference to the wretched of the earth “climbing toward the light.”
Hugo sought to enlighten the literate public to the plight of the working poor of Europe. Their impossible situation can be compared to migratory farm workers in the US, or refugees in the Middle East. Essentially, honest people seeking to support their families are driven from their homes and means of support by uncontrollable oppressive forces such as drought and famine, disease or pestilence epidemic, corrupt legalities, or war. Thus displaced, people become desperate to survive. Natural support networks erode. Families are split, children are orphaned or abandoned, crime and disease are rampant. When people cannot meet their basic needs for food, water, shelter and clothing, society crumbles.
Throughout history, there are similar situations where, given the lack of advanced communications and social awareness created by education, newspaper, television, cinema, and so on, the extremely wealthy are unaware and unconcerned with the plight of the suffering that exists at the outer edge of their society.
Given the right conditions, rebellion against the wealthy establishment will ensue. Success of rebellion is based on the strength of unification and resources of the discontented. Since failure of rebellion is fatal, the discontented must be mightily driven to make such an attempt.
It was to the advantage of the wealthy and the government, therefore, to keep the downtrodden under control. Hugo saw women and children being controlled through withholding food. Children grew up without light and without leisure time. They had no “play” time – essentially no childhood.
In the end, a society may be measured by its treatment of those who have no voice….
I learned so much from this process…
The story of Les Miserables has so many stories and messages. Each one is an important life lesson. These are the messages that strike my soul the deepest:
- Forgiveness is offered to everyone and changes hearts. This lesson is expressed so beautifully when the priest not only forgives Val Jean but gives him more riches to start a new life, a life of good. Val Jean is struck by this gesture of being given a second chance. He takes advantage of this opportunity and by helping the poor becomes the fine man the priest hoped he’d become. He is transformed by forgiveness and not by punishment.
- People can change. Valjean is prosecuted by Javert. Javert doesn’t believe people can change and several times throughout the story, Valjean holds Javert’s life in his hands, but every single time he forgives him and lets him go, despite knowing that he will continue to prosecute him incessantly. Javert finally sees that Jean has changed and gives up the chase. Yes, people can change if given a chance. In the end, Javert has changed as well.
3. A parent will risk everything for a child. Jean is afraid he will lose his adopted daughter to a man she has fallen for. When he finds out, he decides to flee and hide her from her suitor. However, he reads a love letter from the young woman’s lover and realizes that his daughter deserves a chance at love—a chance he never had. He then risks his life to save his daughter’s lover, who was shot during the revolution. He does this knowing he will lose her to him, but her happiness is more important.
Classic works like Hugo’s are known as masterpieces for a reason—they help us learn about human nature, examine our own existences, and be more aware of others’ suffering to do our part to create a better, more compassionate world.
As I have thought about what my experience with Les Miserables has taught me I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to have worked with each and every one of cast and crew. They all hold a special place in my heart. This had been truly been a religious experience for me. I learned much as I have gone deep into my soul to find not only the messages of Les Miserables, but also find the soul of each character. I am also impressed with what I have learned from Victor Hugo. Such a brilliant writer… I think that some of the most beautiful and most profound words found form in Victor Hugo’s mind. If only my own words were as brilliantly written as his words. Alas, I must be content to borrow from his profound mind and heart (some from Les Miserables, some from other writings, and some just from the lessons in life he wrote about) as I attempt to communicate to you all how this experience and you has molded me to be a better person… A better artist… A better friend… A better parent… A better human being.
It is by suffering that human beings become angels… Victor Hugo
What I feel for you seems less of earth and more of heaven… Victor Hugo this is a perfect statement for how I feel about working with these great people, especially my girls.
Love is the foolish net of men, and the wisdom of God… Victor Hugo Really… It is love that makes the world around. It seems to be the universal message that Victor Hugo wanted to share. Love is where it’s at…
For where there is no more hope, song remains… Victor Hugo I love this quote. A good song always has a way of putting hope back into the world.
To love or have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no pearl to be found in the dark foils of life. Victor Hugo, Les Miserables .
Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise… Victor Hugo This is a universal truth. I know that life delivers many discouraging moments, but I also know that disappointment eventually ends and the light will fill the soul.
One act of kindness could change a person’s outlook on life forever… Victor Hugo, Les Miserables.
When a woman is talking to you, listen to what she says with her eyes. Victor Hugo I love this quote!
Involve all of you soul in creation… Victor Hugo This is a great quote for someone thinking about being a director. Directing is a process of using everything you’ve got. Thanks for all you gave this production and good luck in your own creations to come.
To love beauty is to see light… Victor Hugo.
One sees qualities at a distance and defects at close range. Victor Hugo
The heaviest burden is to exist without living… Victor Hugo
Virtue has a veil, vice has a mask… Victor Hugo I love quotes that are universal. I love that this quote applies to acting too.
You who suffer because you love, love still more. To die of love, is to live by it. Victor Hugo
There is nothing like a dream to create the future….. Victor Hugo
“Idleness is the heaviest of all oppressions.” – Victor Hugo
This mind of mine is deeper than most people care to swim… Victor Hugo. This makes me laugh. Mostly thinking of my friends’ faces the first time I pulled a thought from deep inside my mind that they were not expecting. But it is true.
Short as life is, we make it still shorter by the careless waste of time… Victor Hugo
Laughter is sunshine. It chases winter from the human face… Victor Hugo
There’s a life about to start when tomorrow comes… Victor Hugo tomorrow always brings a new adventure.
Music expresses that which cannot remain silent and that which cannot be put into words… Victor Hugo
The pupil dilates in the darkness and in the end finds light, just as the soul dilates in misfortune and in the end finds God. Victor Hugo in Les Miserables
The great acts of love are done by those who are habitually performing small acts of kindness. Victor Hugo
Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleeping peace. God is awake. Victor Hugo
There is darkness in this world, but light is stronger… always…
The future has many names: for the weak, it means the unattainable. For the fearful it means the unknown. For the courageous it means opportunity. Victor Hugo
There are thoughts which are prayers. There are moments when, whatever the posture of the body, the soul is on its knees. Victor Hugo. This quote reminds me of so many in the cast. I love that no matter what they were men and woman unashamed of their convictions… And unafraid to hit their knees.
Sorrow is a fruit. God does not make it grow on limbs too weak to bear it. Vector Hugo.
Change your opinions, keep your principles, change your leaves, keep intact your roots. Victor Hugo. I find it hardest to write notes to my own kids. Not sure why. However, I cannot be more proud of them; the performer and young woman my daughter is becoming. I do believe she will go far in this art… Especially if she remembers who she is, what is important, and where she came from.
I am not, gentlemen, one of those who believe that we can remove suffering from this world, but I am one those who think and say that we can destroy misery. Note it well, gentlemen, I do not say decrease, lessen, limit, circumscribe, I say destroy. Victor Hugo.
The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved – loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves. Victor Hugo
Whatever causes night in our souls may leave stars… Me.
Profound hearts, wise minds, take life as God makes it; it is a long trial, and unintelligible preparation for the unknown destiny.” ― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables.
The power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories, that it has come to be disbelieved in. Few people dare now to say that two beings have fallen in love because they have looked at each other. Yet it is in this way that love begins, and only in this way… Les Miserables.
My favorite scene. Visually, it was simply beautiful.
“People do not lack strength, they lack will.” ― Victor Hugo.
Do you know what friendship is… it is to be brother and sister; two souls which touch without mingling, two fingers on one hand. Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Chapter 13.
To love is to act… Victor Hugo, last words of his diary, written two weeks before his death. Hugo asserts that love and compassion are the most important gifts one person can give another and that always displaying these qualities should be the most important goal in life. I had the pleasure of working with some of the most loving people I have eve met. They inspire me. There are no words to describe what is in my heart regarding these remarkable people. They have become family. Thank you for teaching me real compassion, on and off the stage. Thank you for encouraging me to let my artistic wings unfold and to fly.
There is nothing more powerful than the idea whose time has come. -Victor Hugo.