Alyssa Sellers


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Coming Out of the Clarkson Closet

closetI was a closet Kelly Clarkson fan.

American Idol premiered my senior year of college. I saw pieces of a few episodes and saw enough to know I hated it and everything it stood for. My friend Dee, on the other hand, was a huge fan, so I heard Kelly beat out Justin via the TV in Dee’s Mom’s minivan while we were stuck in traffic moving out her college stuff.

Dee, of course, bought her first CD and I rolled my eyes every time we listened to it that summer. But by album number two, Kelly was winning me over. And I found myself, a few years later, one slow Friday afternoon admitting to my cubemate, Casey, that there was that one Kelly Clarkson song I kinda liked. He, in turn, begrudgingly admitted to digging one of her tunes, too.

Casey and I are both music snobs and so this mutual admission was sorta a big deal. And the follow up online search to figure out which two songs we actual liked was on the side of scandalous. So much so, that when a team manager walked in and ask us what we were doing, we both averted our eyes and turned brilliant shades of red.

I came out of the Clarkson Closet in 2011.

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Sing, Sing A Song

Elvis Thumb War ~ Nashville, Tenn. ~ September 2010

I often speak in sounds effects and song lyrics so for my first 12 months as a blogger all of my entry titles were song lyrics that continued to play in my head as I wrote my entries. To celebrate my success of one year of semi-consistently blogging, I’m listing out all of the songs and artists to which they refer.  Yep, I’m THAT kind of nerd.

Post Title: Song Title: Artist

  1. Express Yourself: Express Yourself: Madonna
  2. Ch-Ch-Changes: Changes: David Bowie
  3. The Shot Heard ‘Round the World: The Shot Heard ‘Round the World: Bob Dorough for School House Rocks 1976
  4. Dream On: Dream On: Areosmith
  5. Blame It On The Rain: Blame It On The Rain: Diane Warren for Millie Vanilli 1989
  6. Seasons Of Love: Seasons Of Love: Jonathan Larson for the musical Rent
  7. So This Is Christmas: So This Is Christmas: John Lenon
  8. Christmas Time Is Here: Christmas Time Is Here: Vince Guaraldi Trio for A Charlie Brown Christmas
  9. It’s Not Easy Being Green: Bein’ Green: Joe Raposo for Kermit the Frog (Jim Henson) 1970
  10. What You Waiting For: What You Waiting For: Gwen Stefani
  11. I Say A Little Prayer: I Say A Little Prayer: Burt Bacharach &Hal David for Dionne Warwick
  12. Would I Lie to You: Would I Lie to You: Eurythmics
  13. Let Your Colors Burst: Firework: Katy Perry. (You can judge me. I’m OK with it.)
  14. Fascinating Rhythm: Fascinating Rhythm: George Gershwin & Ira Gershwin
  15. Little Things: Little Things: Good Charlotte & Little Things: Bush. (My mind shuffled back and forth between the two.)
  16. A Time to Dance, A Time to Mourn: Turn! Turn! Turn!: The Byrds
  17. Time Is On Your Side: Time Is On My Side: Rolling Stones. (This is a testament to how I sometimes mishear and/or misquote lyrics. And how for the entry, I liked my version better.)
  18. Time Is Wastin’, Time Is Walking: Time: Hootie & The Blowfish
  19. They Say the Neon Lights are Bright on Broadway: On Broadway: George Benson
  20. Life is What Happens to You While You’re Busy Making Other Plans: Beautiful Boy: John Lenon
  21. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell 1966
  22. I Sing Because I’m Free: His Eye Is on the Sparrow: Charles H. Gabriel & Civilla D. Martin 1905
  23. Hazy Shade Of Winter: Hazy Shade Of Winter: Simon & Garfunkle
  24. Let The Sun Shine In: Curtain Call –Let The Sun Shine In: Cast of Hair
  25. All You Need Is Love: All You Need Is Love: The Beatles
  26. The Weather Outside Is Frightful: Let it Snow: Jule Styne  & Sammy Cahn

Going forward, some titles may be song lyrics it the description fits. Like today. The Carpenters.


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I Sing Because I’m Free

2b8a4-learntosingBecause I know what sorrow is and currently no longer feel it; I sing.

Because I know how brief this moment can be, how quickly it can all change; I sing.

Because there was a time when all I could do was breathe; let alone speak; I sing.

Often loud, sometimes obnoxiously, but always because I’m free; I sing.

I know there will come a time again when I will not want to, a time again when I will struggle to breathe, but that time is not now.

Because now I am happy; I sing.


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Life is What Happens to You While You’re Busy Making Other Plans

June 2012 ~ Me, Dragon, Eva

I fell in love with George Gershwin when I fell in love with Mr. Holland.

In high school I adored the movie “Mr. Holland’s Opus”. I watched it incessantly and cried enormously each time. I loved Mr. Holland’s world. It was land filled with the arts taught in public schools. A land where high schools had annual musicals featuring the music of George and Ira Gershwin.  A land with roundabouts and old auditoriums. It was magical and unlike any world I’d ever known.

I never imagined I could possibly visit, let alone live in, that make-believe world of Mr. Holland. I’m sure my parents made mention of it being set in Portland, Oregon,  they lived here for a bit in the 1970s, but from where I stood on the movie theater steps in the coatless warmth of January 1996 in Louisiana, Oregon was a fantasy land on the other side of the Rockies with four distinct seasons-not hot and less hot. The likelihood of me inhabiting that place seemed inconceivable.

It’s funny how life works out. 

In June 2004, while wearing a coat, I stood in a parking garage on SW 10th Avenue avoiding the ever present Portland rain and saw a marching band play “Louie Louie” in my first Grand Floral Parade.  This rather infamous song was recorded by Portland based band The Kingsmen in the 1963 and is played by the high school band Mr. Holland directs as they march ahead of a Portland fire truck in a parade during a pivotal scene in the movie.

June 2012 ~ Grand Floral Parade ~ Portland, Oregon

 “Huh…so I ended up in the Land of Mr. Holland after all,” I thought.  I hadn’t really realized until that moment that I had indeed been an inhabitant of that once magical make-believe place for 9 months and I was certain I would be one for another year, but most likely not any more.

This June, I once again stood in a coat on SW 10th Avenue and I realized that, just as Mr. Holland signed and sang,  John Lennon was right, life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.


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They Say the Neon Lights are Bright on Broadway

Look, Ma, a Tony!

Summer may be officially three days away, but in my world it starts when I view the Tony Awards show. It was live on Sunday night and I missed all but the last 10 minutes, but, thanks to CBS.com, I don’t have to live lost in a time vortex.

The Tony’s are my most favorite awards show. And I like me some award shows. I suppose, I like qualifying things; putting things in categories and ranking them. Even within an award show. Here are my favorites of the night:

Most Adorable Couple:
Hugh Jackman and his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, when he received a special Tony Award for his extraordinary contributions to the Broadway community. Watch it, it’s precious.

Most Inspiring Moment:
“When I was around 5-years-old running around telling everyone I wanted to write Broadway shows, it didn’t really occur to me that it would take 56 years to actually accomplish that, but it was worth the wait. Look, Ma, a Tony!”
—     Jack Feldman, Lyricist of Newsies, in his Tony acceptance speech for Best Original Score

Most Articulate Explanation of Theater:
“There are those rare people who can look at the world and see things that the rest of us don’t see until they show us: these are the writers. There are those special few who can take that vision and turn it back into a world: these are the directors, designers. There are fearless beings who live in that world and show us who we are: these are our actors. There are dedicated people who know why that world matters so very much: crew, theater staff, producers, investors, managers, marketers. And then there are the people who step forward and say, “Show me this world. Open me. Change me.”: these are our audiences. And when all of these people come together and say, “Yes,” there is theater.”
—     Jordan Roth, Producer of Clybourne Park, in his Tony acceptance speech for Best Play
 
Best Explanation of My Life:
The Opening Number featuring Neil Patrick Harris
“What if life were more like theater?
What if everywhere you went you heard a band? And then apropos of nothing there were crazy dance routines.”

Let me stop you right here, NPH. I can answer this, because this is the world I inhabit and it’s…wait for it…legendary. On Sunday a friend said to me, “You are the only person I know who comes out of the bathroom singing and dancing.” That’s probably true considering that for most of my childhood I got ridiculed for this involuntary trait. But, friends, as an adult, it is a fairly fabulous way to live. When you think about it, what’s the alternative? Take it away, Neil.

“No, life is bleak and brutal and we carry from the cradle
 the awareness that it is futile and invariably fatal.
We muddle without respite through the sadness and confusion,
or we huddle in the cesspit of our madness and delusion.”

“What if life were more like theater?
Life wouldn’t suck so much.”

Show I’m Most Excited About Seeing When it Comes to Portland in Two Years:
“Once”and not just because it won Best Musical. I will see it because I had been living in Portland for around four years when the original movie came out and felt this town claim it as its anthem, as if it were really about us. Because, I went to the sold-out concert that Glen and Marketa held at the Keller, the largest audience for whom they had ever played. And, yes, in part because Glen said, “Hi, lovely day isn’t it?” in and ADORABLE accent to me and my three friends at the corner of SW 3rd and Clay on his walk to the backstage door with Marketa. Because in that moment, I knew that Portland was becoming something close to home. Oh, yeah, also because the music is wonderful.

Most Interesting Coincidence with My Life:
The multiple musicals featuring the music of brothers George and Ira Gershwin. Recently, I’ve been revisiting my love of this musical duo. (There will be more on this in a later post. Stay tuned.) Turns out, the Broadway Community has too. The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess won for Best Revival of a Musical and the new musical Nice Work If You Can Get It was also a winner.


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Would I Lie to You

Mephistopheles

I saw Portland Opera’s production of Faust in 2006 and it sort of changed my life. In the story Faust sells his soul to Mephistopheles (Satan) for youth. Faust in his new youth sees, lusts for and has sex with young Marguerite. This one night stand results in a baby. Marguerite’s brother returns from war and finds his sister dishonored. He loses a duel with Faust and with his final breath curses Marguerite. Completely destroyed she runs to the church for forgiveness and refuge, but Mephistopheles trails behind her, and employs a chorus of demons to drive her into insanity by telling her she is damned. In this state she murders her baby. 
 
In the final act Marguerite is in jail and Faust comes back to rescue her from execution by asking her to join him and Mephistopheles. As Faust and Mephistopheles try to convince her to flee with them, she sees Mephistopheles for the demon he is and cries out to God, giving herself to him and asking to be carried to heaven. As she is executed Mephistopheles yells, “Judged!” Immediately an angelic choir gloriously resounds, “Saved!” The scrim is lifted and the truth of salvation is shown.

Throughout the entire jail scene a scrim had been between the audience and the actors. Scrims are a tool of the theater. They are used to aid in suspending disbelief. When lit from the front, the scrim looks like a solid wall. If it is lit from behind, it is transparent and the audience is unaware that it exists at all. They have no idea they are missing something. They see the stage and the scene with the actors in costume and the set decorated. Motion happens, lines are spoken, all seems normal. And then it happens, the scrim is lifted, and you see the truth behind it. Imperfections and details of the actors, their costumes, and their surroundings that you never noticed before are suddenly blindingly obvious.

I was looking at life through a scrim. I was moving in my own jail, being accused by Satan. I was being told that I was alone, isolated, that no one else was as insecure or as insignificant as me. I was being told a lie. When the chorus of angels broke out in song from the balcony, it was as if God had sent them down for me. It was as if truth was falling on me with every note of the finale. The truth is I was not alone in my life or in my insecurity.


There is a good chance that Portlanders are insecure to the highest degree. It could be because we are a self proclaimed city of geeks. I mean, we have the largest independent bookstore, our library has the busiest circulation for a city its size and the metro area houses offices of the likes of Intel, Tektronix and other technology marvels. I’m pretty sure that in high school most of us did not sit at the cool table.

But here, now, we have made a new geek-chic cool table and yet, we are still not quite sure we should be sitting at it. We think that this could be a “Carrie” moment and any second, any false move, could end with pig’s blood all over us.

Somehow in the depths of my depression Satan’s lies had temporarily obscured God’s truth. I am loved by God, I am worthwhile. No one has it all together; no one. I think God had been slowly pulling up the scrim for awhile. I think my time with him and with wonderful, supportive Jesus loving friends had gotten me closer to the point where it could be lifted completely.

I now saw the world differently. Like the way a three-year-old sees her closet in the daylight as opposed to night. The coat is not a monster anymore, it is just a coat. That commuter isn’t judging me; he is covered in a scrim being accused by Satan, judging himself.

Portland Opera’s production of Madame Butterfly open this Friday at the Keller Auditorium. Check it: http://www.portlandopera.org/operas/2011-2012/madame-butterfly


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Blame It On The Rain

I speak in sound effects and song lyrics. Sound effects are hard to convey in writing so, today, I choose song lyrics.

Portland was smacked by its first big storm of the season yesterday. It’s been windy, rainy and slightly chilly so most people with any sense stay inside except for when venturing out is absolutely necessary. Needless to say, I went for a walk along the Willamette River this morning. I needed some movement, some nature and some God. I pressed play on my Season of Singing playlist and after some Kanye West and Ben Folds, The Weepies began to play “Painting by Chagall” as a train rumbled alongside the East Bank Esplanade.

Thunder rumbles in the distance, a quiet intensity
I am willful, your insistence is tugging at the best of me

Sometimes rain that’s needed falls…

Coincidence? Possibly. I mean I did make the playlist and it does rain constantly in Portland. Although, we get little to no thunder, so a train is as close as I am likely to get and the song starting as a train rolls by, well…

I am humbled in this city
There seems to be an endless sea of people like us
Wakeful dreamers, I pass them on the sunlit streets
In our rooms filled with laughter
We make hope from every small disaster

I created this playlist toward the end of March when I was creating the proposal for my book; a memoir about holding onto hope in the midst all sorts of disasters. With the book and proposal nearly finished I felt the winter was over and now it was my season of singing. It’s the end of November and my book is still a Word document on my laptop but there has been lots of singing and laughter over the past nine months. The playlist flows into Lenka’s “Everything’s Okay” as I near the Morrison Bridge.

Sometimes I need a little sunshine
And sometimes I need you

The Esplanade is one of my favorite places in the city but I didn’t step foot on it for the first six years I lived in Portland. Sometimes the things we will love are within reach, we just haven’t embraced them yet. Fear kept me from embracing the joy that is the East Bank. Fear isn’t from God, hope is.

Keep giving me hope for a better day
Keep giving me love to find a way
Through this messy life I made for myself
Heaven knows I need a little

Hope for a better day
A little love to find a way
Through this heaviness I feel
I just need someone to say, everything’s okay

And then the crowd resounds with:
Everything’s okay!

Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.
1 Corinthians 13:13 The Message.