singin’ a song

July 17th, 2014 | Uncategorized

medium alison

I did a cartoon recently for the Cartoon Issue of my local alternative weekly in Vermont, Seven Days. It’s about the experience of seeing my book Fun Home turned into a musical. Well, it’s about a very small part of that process–to convey the whole bizarre experience in all its complexity would take a book. This is just a little essay. Every year Seven Days does an all-cartoon issue—they have journalists work with cartoonists and run all these great visual stories.

Also, here’s how to pronounce my name, in case you ever need to know. That link will take you to a site called Teaching Books. They have these audio links of all different authors telling stories about their names. Find your favorites here.

25 Responses to “singin’ a song”

  1. NLC says:

    OK, let me see if I’ve got this right…

    AB has written a posting in which she links to an essay she drew in which she is shown sitting in an audience watching three different actors in a musical portraying parts based on her own character drawn from her graphic novel in which she tells a story from the life of AB.

    ow… ow… ow…

    I’ve lost my spacetime continuum… Excuse me, I think I’m going to go to bed early, for a long time…

  2. Alison — I was wondering, what was it like to draw the actors who portrayed your family for this strip compared to drawing your real family members for the book? Did your hand sometimes get confused between the two? Drawing an actor playing portraying a version of you must be a mind-spinning self-portrait.

  3. Calico says:

    Check this out – my new favorite lesbian!
    I’d love to see her do her stand up comedy routine.

  4. Calico says:

    Sorry for the double link.
    Gotta check out 7 Days online now. : )

  5. NLC says:

    …but more to the point.

    We’ve all had the experience, whether of a play, or a movie, or a book, of saying to ourselves, “God, their telling my story”. And that can be overwhelming. But to be there watching this — the anthem; the showstopper; a song in all its devastating strength; the moment of revelation in its full dissonance– and to know this really is your story and your family before you…

    Thank you for this beautiful gem of a piece.

  6. Kate L says:

    Being an inhabitant of the DTWOF BlogoSphere has been a good influence on me. I just posted my last Geology of Planets on-line course slides and lecture for the summer, complete with my own art showing a woman looking thru a telescope at the kind of microlensing event predicted by Einstein.

    (Calico #3) I don’t know… there’s still something about Red that I find such a commanding presence! 🙂 Oh, Calico (#4), there’s no such thing as you being on-line too much!

  7. Suzanonymous says:

    Totally awesome cartoon and experience to see a rave that your mother would have wanted to see. Miss your observant heart-felt cartoons.

  8. Andrew B says:

    With its floral wallpaper and ornate bed frame, that hotel room looks like it could have been decorated by Bruce Bechdel. If it felt that way to Alison — wow, that must have been strange.

    Alison’s use of dark and light in that strip works well.

    It’s striking that both of the last two strips have featured her looking at a computer screen to learn about a distant person or event. I have no idea if that means anything.

  9. Such a pleasure to see your reflection on the play as a cartoon, a graphic essay. Feels like it completes a circuit, or something. Don’t even know what it means that your work — and, so, this part of the story of your life, and that of your family — is so much part of the culture now. I can’t quite get myself into the head of a young dyke, say, growing up with access to it — maybe I could if I just tried a little harder — but know that the facts of that kind of undulate in my own perceptions. They just do. Also, that name pronouncing site is pretty wonderful. I need help with that all the time!

  10. Kate L says:

    Andrew B (#8). You’d be surprised how often green roses were used as a décor theme in mid-twentieth century American home furnishings…

  11. Glenn I says:

    As a young adult I always felt invisible – and was surprised when anybody noticed me.

    How strange it must be to watch other people portraying you – trying to be you – not mimicking in an unkind way.

  12. Mentor says:

    [FYI, AB will appear on this week’s episode of the PRI’s To the Best of Our Knowledge:

    Acclaimed cartoonist Alison Bechdel has written two brutally honest memoirs about her parents. She tells Steve Paulson about her complicated relationship with her mother and how it inspired her as an artist.

    Here is a link to the episode: [HERE]–Mentor]

  13. Mentor says:

    [The annual Comic-Con is going on in San Diego as we speak.

    1] The local magazine San Diego City Beat has published an article “Comic-Con vs the Bechdel Test” which, together with some comments from AB, lists several panels and talks which will be (or have been) held at the conference dealing with the depiction of women in popular culture, etc.

    The article is available [HERE].

    2] More to the point, if you look at the article, be sure to scroll to top of the column on the left-hand side to see the cover of the issue of SDCB. –Mentor]

  14. Kate L says:

    Wow. I can remember being ostracized for reading comic books as a kid back in the 60’s, now all the cool kids are at Comic-Con. Back in the day, comic books were the literary genre that dared not speak its name!

  15. Fi says:

    Wow, Kate. I can remember (ahem, back-in-the-the-day) when our elders used to say “back in the olden days”…

    But that was before it was us baby boomers (c. 1957 in my case) talk in’… I have a suspicion the “olden” has been ‘disappeared’ from the lexicon like some inconvenient refugee, lest we be mistaken for a person getting on in years…

    Bah humbug, I say!

  16. Kate L says:

    Fi (#15) (Mental flashback of Monty Python’s “In Olden Days” song).

    Hey, I just realized this FaceBook thingie allows me to post a link to that cartoon I drew for my Geology of Planets course (Kate L #6)! I haven’t tried to be a cartooner since I was 9 years old back in the 1960’s and did my own storyboards for characters from the Soupy Sales TV show!

  17. Mentor says:

    [“Fun Home the Musical” coming to Broadway:

    [P.S. And here’s your big chance!

  18. Mentor says:

    [Couldn’t help but think of this group: [HERE] –Mentor]

  19. Kate L says:

    Oh. Mentor! If only I could be out in the field with my fellow DTWOF bloggers! 🙂

    Btw, here are some images of a comet… beginning with a model of its shape based on the best Hubble Space Telescope pictures a few years ago to some close-up images taken by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft that recently went into orbit around it.

  20. Kate L says:

    … The astronomer Fred Whipple once called comets “dirty snowballs”, because they are largely ice (white in the photos) with some rocky silicate dust (gray in the photos). If the comet in Kate L (#19) looks a little like a pile of snow in a parking lot at the end of winter, it’s because it’s been losing ice with each part of its orbit around the Sun that brings it into the warm inner solar system.

  21. Andrew B says:

    Big congratulations to Alison and everyone associated with FHTM for making it to Broadway. They say the neon lights are bright…

    I sure hope there has been a flurry of congratulations over on the Zucker Borg and I just missed it because I’m too stiff necked to sign up over there.

    It’s interesting to look at the actual casting call (the last link in Mentor’s 17). If there are still any singing nerds hanging around here, could you please tell me what a “mixed E” is? I know about flat and sharp, but the actress playing Helen has to be able to hit a mixed E, and I have no idea what that is. (Not planning on auditioning for the part in any case.)

    It’s sort of interesting that all the parts are open to “all ethnicities” (assuming that’s not just boilerplate to avoid legal issues). It’s important to the show that Beech Creek is this narrow, un-cosmopolitan small town. But audiences won’t necessarily know that going in. You can assume that audiences understand the racial issues in, say, “Othello” and that they understand the absence of overt racial issues in, say, “King Lear”, and cast the actors that are best for the part. I’m not sure you can do that in FHTM.

  22. NLC says:

    Andrew B #21: “Mixed E”

    I’m not an expert here (and will be grateful if anyone can correct any errors) but here’s my understanding of the term:

    In singing, most singers recognize three “voices”, the “chest voice” (full-bodied, strong voice), the “head voice” (used for higher notes, but “thinner” than the “chest voice”) and “falsetto”.

    A “mixed voice” is a voice that combines both the “chest” and “head” voices.

    So a singer who “has a mixed E”, means someone who can sing a high E without needing to slip completely into the “head” voice. (That is, many women can probably reach a high E, but it is a rarer voice than do so while still singing in a fuller voiced sound.)

    (If this isn’t clear, try googling on mixed/chest/head voice.)

  23. Andrew B says:

    NLC, thanks, that gave me a starting point. What I’ve found in quick googling basically confirmed what you said. It does appear that singers have two distinct systems of description, falsetto/head/chest for men and head/mixed/chest for women. That sounds sketchy to me — why should there be two systems, given that the physiology is basically the same? But that seems to be how they (most of them) classify.

    The whole issue seems to be complicated by several related but distinct disagreements about how to classify — between singers and speech pathologists, between aesthetic and scientific approaches, between historical and analytic approaches. I’ve put about as much time into it as I can afford. Following is one helpful wikipedia page — but if you really want to see how complicated this is, you’ll need to follow some of the links:

  24. Kate L says:

    I’ve been watching the unfolding events in Ferguson, Missouri, with a sense of Bad Nostalgia for the 1960’s. And, a growing sense of outrage at how the right-wing media outlets are covering the story. The New York Times (not one of those outlets) has an interactive where you can see how much military equipment the Pentagon has given local police forces in the United States. Here in this rural county in Kansas, the amount is relatively small, “just” 27 assault rifles.

  25. Kate L says:

    … More Bad Nostalgia. During the local city commission hearings on including LGBT in the local non-discrimination ordinance, one conservative city commissioner insisted on a heavy police presence in the meeting hall whenever amending the non-discrimination ordinance was to be discussed. I guess in case the Gay got out of control.