The Dream Engine
A Personal Memoir by Bob Sather
I was in the cast of the New York production of the Dream Engine - the one that was commissioned and rehearsed but never performed - but that's another story. The Amherst production I merely attended, and I knew most of the participants. Stein was a familiar acquaintance; he also scored a student production of a musical of 'The Good Woman of Szechuan' by Brecht, (in which I played a Chinese god.) Everyone knew Steiny. He was part of a tight network of theatre and musical people at Amherst, Smith and Mt Holyoke colleges, some of whom have gone on to excellent careers in acting and dance. I remember Stein as a creative wisecracker, full of spontaneous wit. ("My mother had Indian blood on her side... but she wiped it off.") One time at dinner, we were talking about Tony Harrison, a visiting British Poet-in-Residence. Stein spontaneously invented and recited a fairly good long poem, impromptu, which accurately parodied Tony's style. We applauded. Stein had a nasal, rather thin voice (unlike his full singing voice), with a sly delivery laced with giggles and a perpetual grin. He was attractively skinny and small, with black hair to his shoulders.
By the way, in all this I should give great credit to Barry Keating, the student who directed The Dream Engine. Keating played Ezra Pound to Steiny's T S Eliot: he took the huge, unstageable script Stein wrote, drastically edited it, and turned it into a brilliant and effective play. He was an excellent, energetic, highly creative director and actor, and deserves equal billing with Steinman for The Dream Engine. (Barry has gone on to a highly visible career on the New York stage, where he has written/directed a number of award-winning musicals.)
Barry Keating and Ellen Parks gave performances of a rare and wonderful quality in the Dream Engine. Barry was bitterly, hysterically cynical to the power of ten, and Ellen, as The Girl, created a weirdly intense combination of bruised innocence ("soft clay") and passionate, bewildered anger. Ellen had a capacity to immerse herself in a role and let her personality be taken over by it, more than any actor I've known. (Regrettably, Ellen no longer acts. She runs a casting agency in New York.)
This was a period of radical experimentation in theatre: our theatrical precepts were those of Berthold Brecht, the Living Theatre of New York, and Antonin Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty. Peter Hall was doing his best work at the time. The Dream Engine used ideas that were considered new and radical in theatre: rock music, improvisational movement, hippies as heroes, polymorphous sexuality, nudity, actors invading the audience. Rehearsals were great fun. A lot of time was spent in emotional and physical exercises, to relax our inhibitions and bond us into a group. On a typical day Barry led us in stretching and tumbling, and then he led a series of shouting and screaming excercises. Then each actor had to improvise a scene with Steinman, in which he or she would try to convince Jim to admit him to the Tribe. Jim was brilliant at finding a new and funny way to refuse each plea.
The plot was roughly "Charles Manson - the Musical", although without the evil of the real Manson. (The Dream Engine actually preceded the Manson killings by a few months: a very weird prescience on Steinman's part.) A group of runaway young people meld themselves into a Tribe, reveling in excess and animal physicality, in a remote part of California. Their leader is a charismatic, amoral poet named Baal (played by Stein). Eventually the wicked forces of the city try to find and destroy them. The Tribe return to the city and burn it. At the end everyone is dead, a pile of bodies, except for Baal.
At the time, I was very much part of the counterculture. I had left Amherst College because of the draft. I had finished my Conscientious Objector work and I was living in Boston, dealing, and hitchhiking to Amherst to participate in the anti-war movement there. The times were turbulent, angry, and doomy. American society seemed more polarized than at any time in living memory, between the pro- and anti-war factions; between blacks and whites; between the alienated and the powerful. Many people talked seriously about revolution.
Like many people who lived through the repressive Fifties, I had a poor appreciation of my own emotions, and I was trying to use drugs and mysticism to develop an awareness of my own interior life. The anti-war movement was an outlet for my own feelings of anger against authority and sexual/emotional frustration. (Not to trivialise the anti-war movement: the movement was also morally correct, and ultimately successful.) I was an academic at heart, and my tendency was to analyze and rationalise everything rather than to just feel it. I know that I was just ordinary in all this: I was sharing this experience with a large part of my generation.
The Dream Engine was an antidote to that emotional blockage. It was intuitive, sexy, violent, exultant, irrational, angry, funny, despairing, and triumphant by turns. It crystallised and expressed the feelings that I/we had but could not voice. It was perfectly in tune with the times (unlike, say, 'Hair', whose flower children were already out of date.) I won't say that it changed my life, or changed history; better to say that the Dream Engine was a perfect expression of the times and of our lives. It had nothing to do with a political program (Steinman has always been profoundly apolitical). It was a creative emotional expression of collective unconscious awareness, speaking and singing through Steinman.
Stein has said that he doesn't so much invent songs, as that he listens to the world around him and it speaks through him; and I can vouch that it is true of the Dream Engine, and the world in which it was born. The Dream Engine enriched the complex efflorescence of the late Sixties with another bloom, a brilliant musical expression of our common experience.
Reaction To The Dream Engine
A Tribe Of Steinmaniacs
Dream Engine is probably one of the best and most different Plays of it's, this and any time. The songs are astounding. The story is great. All in all it is work of pure genius, and a great place to hear early works of the greatest writer/composer of all time, including songs that were later developed for other singers. (ie. Bonnie tyler, Meatloaf) Jim Steinman never ceases too amaze me,it is a must see for any Steinfan.
I'm speaking as one who has only ever read the transcripts (I want to hear the music OH SO BADLY!), but I think Dream Engine is a work of pure, absolute, and utter genius. It starts out so bizarre that you just have to keep on reading (that historian-narrator dude is just psychotic enough to catch the attention of weird people like me; and is it just me, or does his twitching vein make everything that much more real?), and by the time you're through with the first few verses in Invocation and Formation of the Tribe ... completely caught. These are some of Steinman's best lyrics. I mean ever. They seem to have more of a focus than his other stuff, and the images they bring to mind are both psychotic and beautiful, and real on top of all of that. I love how the dialogue exchanges in here work! They're sotightly woven together it's IMPOSSIBLE to stop until the pace has at least tried to slow down, but it never does. And Baal is like the perfect character (and I am so, like, talking like a teen ... like); he seems very vampiric to me in the way he presents himself, and that is a great compliment. Another thing I love about Dream Engine is how its so self-referential. It keeps drawing the important points back by repeating certain lines throughout. This thing is so beautifully, eroticly (I can't spell!) charged that it's just ... I'm not sure if there are words for it. AND I HAVEN'T HEARD THE MUSIC YET!!!!!!!!!!
I can understand that people were amazed by this at Amherst in '69, it's incredibly provocative and outrageous in its images, language and form.
Parts of the soundtrack must be some of the heaviest played in a theatre ever, and definitely the rawest and loudest played in any theatre at the time.
I can't say I know very well how hardrock was sounding at the time, but as far as I know, heavy metal didn't really become "mainstream" until the early 70's, and considering that, I'd almost like to say that the music was almost "pioneering"!
Fresh or not, the music must absolutely be some of the heaviest that was played at the time, and that in a place where strings normally hang out!
That being said, I'm not surprised that Jim wrote a lot of his music in the late 60's.
Composing has a lot to do with inspiration, and as a teenager, your world, body and entire existence is under a constant change, which are all major inspirations for a writer.
Your feelings are also very strong and true during this time, and good creative work "feels" as well as sounds good.
"Dream Engine" shows the potential of what would become one of the greatest, yet unrecognized by the masses, writers of the 20:th century.
Oh, God, where do I begin? Just thinking of this has gotten all my thoughts sort of entangled in my head and I don't really know where any of the ends are... I mean, I don't even know if I can explain what I felt the first time I heard tDE... in a way, it was that feeling (which has now, after so many years "with Jim", started to feel familiar) of being understood. It felt like someone out there knows how I felt and feel, what it's like to be somewhat of an outcast but still be the one on top of things. I mean (someone please kill me if I use that phrase again), Baal is very much of an outcast but he's never subservient or obsequious or anything, pretty much like me when I was a kid. I was weird to the other girls; I had much bigger visions and dreams and was far more dramatic, more rebellious, and they didn't like me one bit, but I never felt as if though there was something wrong with me. Instead, I thought they were plain idiots and knew that it was them who were missing something. I guess The Dream Engine reminds me a lot of myself when I was a kid.
Also, I always had (and still have) this need to "break free" or whatever we shall call it, and it reminds me so much of how I sometimes want to just leave everything and live out in the woods near the ocean for a while and just become one with the world. I want to escape The City! :)
Then, to try and avoid any more nostalgia, we have the music... the words... I never dreamt anyone could capture such energy, such anger, such humour, such velocity, such sexuality and sensuality, such profoundness and wit and intelligence in a play! I really understand Jim when he says that he thinks he's a better actor than singer (not that I think he sucks at either artform), because if you listen to those cd's, Jim really, really means every word of it. He's really in it, and that's part of what makes it so easy to get.
There is also this certain kind of magic about it considering that this was wayyy before Jim turned into a well-known composer! I remember when I first heard about tDE, and I got so feverishly obsessed with owning this piece! I mean, this is actually like a part of his life before "Bat"! It was like something in me finally found it's place, and it felt like "oh, God, he didn't just turn a genius over night- he was really born this way!!!!" It's not a good explanation, but it's probably the best I can give. I love this musical, I really do. I think it's an astonishing piece of work and a treasure to have, and if I had such narrative skills as some people here, like Moco and Melody have, I'd probably be able to come up with so much more and better stuff.
But this is why I love it!
The Dream Engine is the spark that ignited the fire that lit the way along Jim Steinman's journey to musical godliness. What it lacks in musical and lyrical maturity, it more than makes up for with its intriguing (though sometimes perplexing) characters, dialogue that is itself music to the ears, and enough inspiration to fuel an entire career.
"And after that, how soon before you find yourself trapped in a business suit...a prisoner in your own nightly bath, with pink soap balls for eyes, and nothing to see, and no reason to try. The perfect American marriage, perhaps: the vegetable husband and his vegetarian wife! SHUT UP! An empty shell, nothing more, a shell, in which you can't even hear the ocean, no matter how hard you try, no matter how close to your ear. An empty shell..."
In these few lines, Steinman demonstrates all at once his ability to magically string words together into a beautifully rhythmic sequence of sounds, his ability to use words to create a powerful visual image, and his noteworthy sense of humor. And what is truly incredible is that the same could be said about almost any passage in "The Dream Engine."
It is amazing to hear what a young Jim Steinman was capable of when given complete control of a musical, to perceive how much he has continued to grow artistically, and to imagine the wonder of a new all-Steinman musical.
Not only is THE DREAM ENGINE ingenious, erotic, inventive, beautiful, sparse, thought-provoking, powerful, dangerous and awe-inspiring but it is also a pathway into the mind of our lord, Jim Steinman.
His political views, his views of sexuality, his views of love, race, religion, war, death, peace, and violence converge forming an orgy of feelings....
Feelings of longing, doubt, fearfullness, fearlessness, lust, hate....all in one word are expressed....WHICH word?
The word that speaks most to you.....
Erotic, imaginative, seductive, sensual, lewd, lascivious, delicious, and thrilling are only a few of the words that describe the masterpiece that began it all. Although the music is far less superb in this musical than his future creations, Jim's dialogue is nothing short of genius. Example, absolutely the most humerous and fantastically creative scene:
GIRL: What do you want to know?
BAAL: Well... [slowly] are you... [then rapid-fire] anal, rectal, vaginal, oral, genital bestial, hetero, homo, bi-, tri-, quatre-, cinq, six, sick, lonely, desperate, monolingual, bilingual, cunnilingual, passionate, poetic, hallucinogenic, barbarian, Cesarean, mammalian, cornucopian, horn of plenty, plenty horny...??
GIRL: ALL RIGHT! Stop! What do you want me to say!?
BAAL: ALL OF THEM!!
GIRL: Yes, I'm all of them, I'm everything you want!
BAAL: Aren't you exhausted?
GIRL: Yes. Very.
BAAL: How do you like it out here?
GIRL: It's very lovely.
BAAL: On a clear night you can see the labia minor.
Steinman's use of language is incredible and proves him to be a true artist. The music is definitely "primitive Steinman," but I highly enjoy hearing familiar riffs and lyrics! Baal is the most interesting character ever created..... :::bows down:::
Steinman shall forever be my Dream Engineer.
It's interesting, Jackie, that you should ask for this at a time when US television seems to be obsessed with the '70's. I reread the transcript of "The Dream Engine" and was struck by the anti-establishment nature of it. Just about a year after "The Dream Engine" was first performed, college students were being shot by the Maxes and Emilys of the National Guard. Young people were legally protesting against authority and were such a threat that they had to be killed. That, plus the way that much of the music Steinman wrote then and in the next 5 or so years after that are still being used to great effect in "Tanz der Vampire," make me feel very strongly that he was ahead of his time.
The quality I find most appealing about Dream Engine is the author's ability to illicit a response from the audience/reader. While reading Dream Engine, I found myself being afraid, aroused, angered, delighted, tickled, nervous, agitated, startled, all the while a deep seated hunger stirring my soul. It's apparent that the author, crafted by his own philosophies amassed through personal experiences, has a strong opinion of the world he has created as well as the world around him. The duality speaks to everyone. Not just the insane, not just the conservative, BUT EVERYONE. This universal language continues to be communicated in present day through Jim's music, lyrics and compositions. Jim has mastered the craft of making another person (or person's) see, hear, feel, taste, and smell what lies between his ears. What's more, his brutal honesty has the listener begging to be involved in some manner.
THAT is pure brilliance.
>>> This universal language continues to be communicated in present day through Jim's music, lyrics and compositions. Jim has mastered the craft of making another person (or person's) see, hear, feel, taste, and smell what lies between his ears. What's more, his brutal honesty has the listener begging to be involved in some manner.
THAT is pure brilliance.>>>
I do and I don't agree with this incredible, dare I say "INTENSE" (Hey Princess) review. I find Jim to be more of an enigma for people. I think few would say that his words, his music, his vision speak for them. I have met more people than not who were totally turned off by Jim's style, his approach, his vision.
That almost negates the "universal appeal" idea. Yes, I fall under the category of the listener you described above, as do most of us here on thislist...but more often than not, the people who I introduce my "Steinstuff" to are not amused, excited, or interested.
Now, I will give you this...That, in and of itself, is a response...therefore, Jim is successful.
The Dream Engine holds a significant place in theatre history. It is one of the few rock operas (musicals, epics, odysseys) written pre-Jesus Christ Superstar. It has a classic Greek feeling to it, the Everyman yearning to break free and express himself. It's a "self-aware" play - the characters are aware they are in a play, they speak to the audience, there is no fourth wall. There is a wonderful rapid-fire give and take of dialogue much like fellow absurdists Ionesco and Beckett. The other major influence I feel is the darkly comic deranged Cabaret mood of Brecht and Weill. The Entre-acte is as pretty as anything Jim has written. It's such a complex, satirical, hilarious, haunting, in-your-face piece it's really hard to believe that all the teacher's that gave it an "F" weren't actually laughing and enjoying themselves at the show! You can hear on the CD that the audience is really having agood time. I think it's a major work from a 19 year old (no offense 19 year-olds!). I'm grateful for the opportunity to experience it.
Now that there was some negative reaction to the Dream Engine, I'd like to say something too. When I first heard the Dream Engine, I thought there was too much talk and too little music. I prefer musicals with little or no talk, such as Tanz. Now I do understand that the dialogue probably couldn't have been sung. But I still think that Historian's monologue in the beginning is too long. I think the spoken parts are brilliant but I often listen just to the songs. There's also another thing I sometimes like in the Dream Engine and sometimes don't: Unlike Jim's later work, it's not very romantic or emotional. Because of that I maybe like Neverland better. But these were only small things in a brilliant piece of work.
Angie said that she doesn't understand the Dream Engine. I don't have difficulties understanding most of it though I wasn't born yet when it was written. Although I'm some kind of hippie and in love with the 60's, I probably I don't understand some of the references to 60's political situations and such things. And English isn't my first language so because of that I probably don't understand some things. But despite that I enjoy it a lot. It's the same thing with Shakespeare who Angie mentioned. I can't understand all of his references to things that happened in the 16th and 17th centuries. But despite that Shakespeare is one of my favorite authors, and I really love such plays as A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet. And I love some plays by Euripides who lived 2500 years ago. The Dream Engine and Shakespeare's and Euripides's plays are much more than just references to things that happened a long time ago.
Every boy in the loft thinks pacificism is best left to salt water fish. You should hear them whooping. (You're a codfish!)
<< "America.. how could you be reduced to ashes and yet never have been burnt?" >>
hairspray on a wall doesn't leave any ashes...
<< How do you have a funeral for something abstract? I think its important that somewhere near the end, when Baal is defeated that he says something about "drink from my skull," though I don't know exactly where it fits. >>
I wish I'd majored in English but I had a minor distraction in my cock. <sigh> I'm not up to talking about symbolism & shit, because something that hard you put into action, not words. Trust me, if I were up to explaining my country's skull, I would. "Once upon a time there was a boy who hunted all the beautiful people and kept their heads in his bed with him, so he'd never be alone. He used to kiss them at night, and sing them songs, and gibber madly as he licked their blood." This has something to do with it, if I could just remember what.
<< However, to answer the last question, the revolution that Baal is doing is bad. >>
<< He means well, he wants to change things, but violence is never the answer. >>
Pop Quiz--answers at bottom.
Q: What's Ghandi always preaching against?
Q: What rhymes with mints and involves guns?
Q: Feminists preach that rape is not about sex, but about what?
Q: And what exactly does Jim want to do with his guitar?
A: Lotsa real sexy ________________*
<< As smart as he is, he doesn't know how to change the world--so he rages against it. >>
(intro power chords)
<< The universe is too big to fight against though, so he fails. >>
<< The historian understands the rage, >>
damn ketchup bottle! smack-wham-bang!!!!!
<< and understands that although Baal has lost, he will find a different way (perhaps a non-violent way) and make his change. >>
Have you forgotten Neverland? You don't want to see Baal after he "changes" to a different way.... "Always, Emily. Always..." I'd rather see change at the end of a blood splattered guitar than in a doctor's needleprick.
<< "Give them time" he says, like an all knowing father figure. >>
He can't even upen a bottle of Heinz-57 without getting violent!!!! HE threatens the whole fucking audience for breathing too loudly!! What the fucking hell is so all-knowing about... oh wait, you're right. Violence *IS* the answer!
<< I don't think Jim likes violence. >>
So... I SMASHED it against the wall! I smashed it against the floor! I smashed it against the...ooooohhh.... varsity cheerleaders...yummy.....
<< Otherwise, why would he be fighting so fiercely against the war in Vietnam? >>
"There's a world of difference between killing someone else's children and killing your own parents who've fucked you every day of your life. There's a world of difference between travelling across the world to burn napalm forests and burning your own prison cell. You have no right to hunt down someone else's fallen angels, but your demons are yours to kill." -B (but I translated it into English)
<< He wants the battle "at home, where we can keep an eye on it" if it must be waged. In fact, the narrator--who is suppose to tell us what is right-- >>
ohmigod you've got issues. You think the *Historian* knows what's right? "Don't let it fool you, shitholes!"
<< basically sneers at Baal. "Mescaline cowboys indeed" >>
<< he says flipantly. And the last lines are a plea to "make our cemetaries safe for our children" a plea not to let any more of our youth's get wasted ;-) >>
no.... he's paraphrasing city-feel... The City would rather see their children safely buried than to risk their finding freedom. "I'd rather have my children die for me..we had to bring you back, too far down, deep end...someday you'll understand, we're only trying to help you." And then it's the drugs, and the "pieces of food" and the "cheeseburgers" and the aversion shock therapy and the ass probes and the asylum and The Pit and the needles and then they're burning you on a fifty foot neon cross to save your soul! Hallelujah motherfuckers!!!!!!!!
Now, the *revolution* is bad?
Since when has carrying signs worked? Or going on hunger strikes (as if Lost Boys could lose anymore weight! "There are always bones in the cars on the highway but there's never any food")... or political lobbying shiftshaft (lobby with bombs, motherfucker! FIRE!)... every damn hippie wears a business suit now, or a tombstone. Make your choice, and hallalujah...
Anarchy now, there is no reason why! Fag & company
* and the answer is: VIOLENCE!
* and the answer is: VIOLENCE!
* and the answer is: VIOLENCE!
* and the answer is: VIOLENCE!
4 out of 4: You can either read, or you're a Lost Boy.
3/4: Well, maybe you said "power" or "music" instead of "violence" for numbers 3 or 4.... well, they're the same thing...
2/4: You're a stubborn ass, aren't you?
1/4: Can you at least rhyme? columbine? 'bout time? canine? shoe-shine two-time lick mine sixty-nine!
0/4: Grown-Up! Grown-up! Grown-up!
(Grown-ups kill me... I kill Grown-ups too! KILL THE LAWYER! KILL THE LAWYER!)
>> NILS had Dream Engine Questions:
First, I read the "biography" about Jim on Steen's Website. This biograpy says about the Dream Engine was "about a conspiracy by the government to control the nation's youth by drugging them and controlling their emotions". I must admit that I don't actually notice much of that in the piece. >>
Outta curiousity-killed-the-cat, did he write the bio before he heard Dream Engine? Because while I think there's a lot of that in Dream Engine, most people wouldn't. But if you'd just heard Neverland...It is a lot more obvious. But the governmental structure in the two is pretty much the same. Bones calls it a City-State and goes on for hours about the old Greek Metropolis whenever we talk about it. Any City that's carrying Assasins of the Young on their payroll, including Cleveland, is by default trying to control their emotions, and anytime you've got a Dr. Rosenbloom or Dr. Hook or Dr. Mengele or any other such, you've automatically got a City controlling the youth by drugging them.
(Luckily we don't do that here in America. Excuse me for a second, I have to yell at my loftmate: "Damn it, Nate, take your Thorazine or we're all going to regret it in the morning!" Now, as I was saying...)
You're right, they don't mention the Asylum, per se, in Dream Engine. But they have Dr. Rosenbloom, and at a guess the staging makes it even more obvious. Besides, Killer Nuns automatically implies both repression and LOTS OF DRUGS...at least to my mind.
>> Of course it's about the youth fighting against the government, >>
>> I think that the bio mixed some things up. I think in Neverland the youth is being drugged in order to prevent them from dreaming and developing strange ideas. But I don't see that happening in TDE. Any thoughts on that? >>
I think the big difference is that in Neverland a lot of the focus goes into the surroundings, into the plot elements and the politics of the story. People stay themselves, and we find out how Max can be himself and the "good doctor" and Emily is an Assassin and a Religious Leaderette, etc, and why they care so much about Wendy-Girl. But in TDE it's more inside-focused, the plot and the reason why isn't so important as the revolution itself, even though it still comes through (chromosone damage, and the talk of genetics).
The Asylum's still there, the drugs are still there masquerading as Cheeseburgers "a piece of fooooooodd...", and the whole futuristic shitholeplace is the same, just everyone's sharing an hallucination of being back in the green-old-days and have something small enough to fight and win that maybe it'll work and there're still actually a buffallo or two left to die.
-B- says, "that's beautiful, Fag" If he's going to sit here being so disaparaging I don't no why he doesn't just write it himself. Oh, wait... nevermind.
>>I'm catholic, and I didn't pick that up... but "passion" >>seems a >>>good description for ANY Steinman work, play or otherwise... :-) >>
Well, there's like this part in Dream Engine where baal is strung up on a glowing neon cross being tortured by nuns, I mean, that's kinda like a passion play, especially with all their talk about the last supper, and then there's the talk about his blood being pure energy, which is kinda messianic.
>>That's cool! But how d'you know that's what's happening? >>
Um... I guess I might have imagined the glowing neon bit. Everyone keeps telling me there was NOT a flashing neon cross....um...That's always just the way I imagined it in me head, youknow? Though I checked out the official blocking on dreampollution and it says:
"Baal is strung up like a piece of meat....in a parody of a bizarre religious ritual.... Baal is tied up, crucified, in the center of the stage"
which means there at elast had to be a cross, neon or not...right? but I swear, I *saw* it and it was this fucking big neon cross. maybe dreaming.
>> masochistic and objectifying women >>
Well, yeah, of course it's masochistic.
>>ooops! I got mixed up. I meant misogynistic. And this is a "uni feminist" pov, not really mine, but I brought it up 'cos it was the only negative perspective I could think of >>
I can think of more... how's the "socially irresponsible" crowd cumming? I mean, really, encouraging revolution! how like, UN-GHANDI!
>>Maybe... the Historian seems kinda sad sometimes, almost empathetic... >>
Once I was in love with a lake....
>>Sometimes we think he's a part of Baal's psyche, one of his hallucinations. >>
Maybe they all are?
All the lost boys? maybe. that's kinda a really cool idea. so, like, Dream Engine is an entirely psychosomatic revolution, and everyone in it is a figgerment of Baal's imagination?
This show has no limits. I find the Dream Engine to be a very original, extreme, honest piece, and if nothing else, intriguing. It's truly an intense vision and unlike anything I've ever seen or heard before. After the first listening I found it disturbing somehow, maybe because of its emotional explicitness, maybe because so many ideas and emotions are thrown forth all at once. It's hypnotic and erotic and funny and powerful, and it can also be disturbing because of its honesty and rawness.
The Dream Engine exposes a lot about the late 60s, a time I like to think I understand but also an era I can't really identify with. I guess the show is a real product of its time (combined with a great big dose of Steinman philosophy), although like all good theatre, there are themes that transcend time. It must've been very in tune with everything that was happening in 1969 while also being very revolutionary and innovative.
I usually prefer sung-through shows and had originally wondered if there would be more music in the Dream Engine than there actually was. But in this show, the spoken word isn't boring or unexpressive at all; it's invigorating and helps set the tone for the piece. Jim Steinman's performance was amazing and very felt, and Baal's character is a great creation.
Overall, the Dream Engine gives a lot of key insight into the World of Steinman and how it all began. This show has awakened a certain part of me and changed me on both a personal and theatrical level. The images and raw poignancy of the Dream Engine make the show astounding, and it is truly one of the most inspired pieces of theatre I've ever known.
I have a problem with listening to musicals when I haven't seen it staged. I suffered with both Whistle and Tanz when I heard them, not just because the former uses those 'dodgy' accents that have been discussed at length and the latter is in German, but because I have trouble visualising what's going on. A musical is a visual as well as aural experience in my opinion, to take away one of these two is taking away half of the performance. Imagine seeing Tanz with no sound, it wouldn't work would it? I can only see that working if it happens to be 'The Sound Of Music' that you're watching. Anyway I digress.
Visualisation is very important to me (call it a lack of imagination if you will). When I first heard The Dream Engine I found it very heavy going. The going eased when I read the transcript whilst listening to it a second time.
I understood most of the symbolism (Youth Vs Old, Battle against the establishment etc etc) and also roughly how it fitted into the political history of the time.
The songs are good in most cases, and brilliant in those cases where they aren't good. But as a 'whole piece of art' I do struggle to appreciate it.
I tend now to listen to it rarely, and when I do it's generally only the songs I listen to, skipping the dialogue parts.
I know that The Dream Engine is a visionary piece of work, with many songs reappearing in Jims more commercially successful projects. (I know also that commercial success isn't a very good yardstick to measure by, but hey what the hell!), I know that many people class it as Jims finest piece of work. But I can't agree with them on that.
There's potential within it, as we've seen since with Bat Out Of Hell, Bad For Good, Pandoras Box et al.
It's good, I found it interesting to listen to, but no matter how much I would like to I can't rave about it.
Mutate NOW... all right, here's the thing. first, I live right around the corner from Kent State, practically, and you can still hear the distant thunder of flags through the apathy. it's funny, though, that the most famous martyr was an ROTC scholar? history makes due. (for you frenchies on the list, rotc scholars are on military rides) soap.
and thanks, bobboy, for the history. rilly. but
IT DON'T MATTER!!!
here's the thing, Dream Engine is totally TODAY. I could off the top of my head list, like, fifty ways that it still matters. so the names have changed, and it's "William Cigarbox Clinton" now, and you haven't got the cool 69ers pun. but the revolution stil brews.
may I point out Columbine? go go lost boys. now point that gun a little to your right and shoot the teachers, k?
may I point out the protests in seattle and d.c. that ended just this year in tear gas and billy clubs? or the little boy being sent back to a country his mother died trying to escape? land of the free ride to jail and home of the brave billy gun!
may i point out that America has less than a fifth of the worlds population and more than a quarter of its prison population? that Amnesty International found nearly as many human rights abuses here as in red china?
may i point out that if a child is raped or beaten by a stranger, the pedophile might be punished... but if the child's trusted parent does the same damn thing, everyone will scream about parents rights and put the kid back in their father's arms and crotch within a week. it always hurts more when it's a strangers cock, i guess....
may i point out that one of the ten leading reasons given in anonymous polls of women who had abortions is that the child was the wrong gender? or had a handicap? damn the mutants!
may i point out matthew scarecrow sheperd?
may i point out that in the aftermath of columbine, schools across the nations cracked down on their wierdos? you could get suspended for wearing black. i had a friend kicked out for wearing a shirt that said "mean people suck"... students were randomly given full body cavity searches for wearing goth make-up. if you wrote depressed poetry, you got mandatory counseling. my boy OO got himself called down to the counselors every day during the semester for counseling for not saying he loved his school and country. one of my flatmates got himself kicked out of school for fraternizing with dissidents: he turned them in for bringing guns to school, and got suspended for knowing about it!
may i point out the bruises on the faces of children who have confessed in interrogation to planning to blow up their schools? (the school in which you learn will be the fire in which you burn!)
may i point out that the war on drugs has become a war on the dissident? if they catch you with drugs and charge you with a felony, you'll never have the right to vote in America again...
may i point out mumia abu-jamal?
may i point out that every major dictator in south america was placed there by the american government and every right wing extremist on that continent was trained in the school of the americas?
may i point out that medicine to fight aids are denied to poor african countries because only faggots catch hiv here?
may i point out the fires in waco that killed a commune full of children? does ruby ridge ring a bell?
may i point out the prevalence of drugs in our schools? Ritalin, prozac, zoloft, thorazine... there's a drug for every ideal! did you know they now have prozac for puppies?
may i point out the video surveillance cameras on every corner, the worldwide phone taps to check for 'terrorists'? did you know your entire life is in a file already?
may i point out that nuclear waste is being buried beneath the western deserts that has a half life of a 1,000,000, years...and is stored in barrels that will corrode in 50? may i point out that the inescapable pollution of the cities have caused cancer rates to skyrocket in the inner city?
may i point out the genetic tests that are turning mice into men and pig hearts into human?
may i point out that anal and oral sex are still jailable offenses in half the states in america? that you can be arrested for kissing your same sex lover in public? (i should know!)
may i point out that america is one of the last countries in the world to still keep a "territory" that wants its independence we promised it a hundred years ago?
may i point out the continued military interference in countries that don't want our "help"? Clinton is a terrorist in Iraq... excuse me, but whose rights are we protecting by bombing them? did you know that right now it's illegal to import plastics to iraq that are needed for oxygen tents? or needles for diabetics? or pencils and paper for school children? or books? or sugar? or surgical tape? half of the chemicals needed for water purification can't be imported because they could be used to make low grade explosives.... and we've bombed their water systems till they literally drink their own shit. I am the Americong!
may i point out that in the history of the west, every thirty years a new revolution brews, and we're long overdue?
if dream engine doesn't ring a bell in america, it's not the fault of the political situation. it's the fucking fault of a drugged up and dragged under WE THE PEOPLE who haven't been willing to go dancing naked in the streets! fucking mutate now! feel the revolution! The Dream Engine is still rolling!
so, change teh names, and teh dates, and start listening... the city is sitll trying to eat you all alive, you know. it's even bigger than it was thirty years ago... and its FUCKING WINNING!!!
FIGHT BACK! FIGHT BACK! FIGHT FUCKING BACK!
The second holocaust is still coming....
What is the Dream Engine? Is it an attempt merely to piss off a bunch of adults by a young college student who would one day grow up to work with the likes of a guy who likes to be called Meatloaf? Or is there some deep message, like Shakespeare, that a reader or listener can obtain through dissection of every line and verse. I do not like taking things that I enjoy and trying to study them too intensely, for they often times don't stand up too well to annalysis. However, the Dream Engine is one of those things which begs for a closer look. For Jim was most definately trying to say something, we just have to figure out what it is. Ah yes, I have it: vaseline is no cure for cancer. Although the historian says this very sarcastically, let's start with this as our first attempt at a "message." With this line, Jim is telling us that people sometimes get screwed and sugar coating it isn't going to help. If this is the point, who is it who's getting screwed in the Dream Engine? Baal and his followers seem to think that they're getting a rough deal and leave the city. They, like Peter Pan, are the sort who will never grow up. Why did they leave the city? Because to live in the city might entail them having to go off to fight in "the war." Or perhaps its the entire population of the city who's getting screwed. Max and Emily and the secret police killer nuns don't exactly seem like the most efficient government system ever developed. Things are definately not right in the city. The test tubes are starting to bleed. The mutants are fighting back. And the freaks are starting to really act like freaks. Perhaps the city has a cancer? The cure then, is purification through fire, which Baal brings. A rough cure indeed--and vaseline ain't gonna help you feel better. Let's look at the war angle for a second though... obviously the Vietnam war is going on at this time, and obviously Jim is against it. In fact, Jim's contributed a lot of musical work to movies/musicals that have an anti-war theme to them (such as More Than You Deserve, A Small Circle of Friends, Rude Awakening, ect.). It is hard, with hindsight, to justify America getting involved with a war that was not our business in the first place, nor a war that was winnable (and yes, I do know all about the idea behind it--to stop the spread of Communism, the policy of containment, blah blah blah). The last draw was drafting the youth though. Imagine that. A lot of the members of this list are just barely over 18. Can you imagine getting a piece of paper in the mail one day saying that you had to report for duty to learn how to kill so you could be sent off to a foreign country, where its hard to tell friend from foe because they all look alike, and where if you don't get killed by bullets, you'll get killed by disease? This was the world Jim was living in. If Jim hadn't been in college at the time (and if the Dream Engine wasn't the success it was, he probably wouldn't have been in college, his grades were horribly low) then Jim himself was in great danger of being drafted. So, yes, Jim is pissed off at the war. Yes, he's pissed off at the government. Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover are the mortal enemy. "Our insanity is the greastest insult we can give a world whose mental helath can be measured in uniformed corpses and packaged decay" he tells us. But it goes deeper than Vietnam as well. Jim taps into all the wrongs that the government has have done. How it has wronged the Indian tribes that once lived here, bombed Hiroshima with a nuclear blast that will damage the decendants well past the day when all of us are dust, and then named the streest after the very murderes who commit the crimes. He does this without the whining noise that will come from the "other Baal" in Neverland. Jim's Baal is angry, a rebel 'with' a cause, and knows his power. He's righteous and noble, and yet... yet, he's just a 19 year old boy. The country has made him think like a man. He should be worried more about using the 36 positions he's learned (82 if two are involved). He's lost faith in God, and made himself a God. Not a bad idea, but not a great career choise for a youth. Gods tend to die poorly in the end. And Baal does die in the end, though some may disagree with this point. He dies along with the girl in a heap of bodies fighting, ironically, against the idea of fighting. Somewhere along the way he lost focus, lost touch with what he was protesting against. Perhaps though things are different in the city now. Perhaps somehow, through this battle, things are better. We don't know. Jim doesn't tell us. Frankly, I don't think they are. And yet there's that line. That line that echoes through out the musical over and over again. "How do you bury the skull of your country?" What does it mean? Is it that America is dead, and that the head (ie, the government) needs to be buried? I don't think that's quite the right metaphor, for althogh Baal would love to get rid of the government, America isn't dead. It's still that "secret land, as yet undiscovered by anyone." I've played around witht the thought and come up with this, although it might change tommorow: the line is about shame. Yes, that's it. Shame. Things are going wrong in America at this time. The Vietnam war should make people ashamed, along ith all the other wrongs that America has done in the past. The historian remarks at the end, after describing protestors running in the streets from tanks, beaten to death by clubs. This--and nothing less, he tells us, is how you busy the skull of your country. Notice in that description of "the hunt" that the protestors are not fighting back. They're being slaughtered, beaten, and ultimately, killed, yet they're not fighting back. Their protests are non-violent ones, as Baal's should be, that fails. And if anyone thinks that violent revolt does work, let's just examine the way that African Americans got the rights they did--it wasn't the Black Panthers or the extremists, who proclaimed that they would get what they wanted "by any means neccissary." Instead, it was the non-violent protestors like Martin Luther King, and the many who stood up for what they believed for in court, or sat where they wanted to on a bus, or took their hard money elsewhere to a restraunt that wasn't color coded. Jim would have known about this, these events were happening in his time, even if equality itself hadn't fully been won. And I don't believe that he was a racist either, even if we do hear the word "nigger" used in several places, or a call of "fuck the Jews" (Jim being Jewish after all). You can hear black voices in the musical as well as white. There was a lot to stand up and fight for back in those days. The brave people were those who stood up for what they believed for and did. I wonder at times what Baal's plan would have been if he had fully succeeded and he had taken over the city. Would he have set himself up a ruler over his new "kingdom come?" Some how I can't see that, it would be too grown up. He rules his pack through religious devotion and ceremony--easy in small groups, but impossible in something as large as a city. He couldn't turn them all into tribe memebers either, otherwise hundreds of those who are unable to live outside the city would die, and he'd be just as guilty as all the "rapists and murderers" he lists at the end of the play. So if Baal didn't run the city, it would be just a changing of figure heads, another man (or woman) doing the same damn thing as before. Like I said earlier. I've strayed from my point. I do that sometimes. It's expected of me though. And I always do what's expected of me. That's howcome I've lived so long. The point. Yes, that's what I was talking about. What is it? Is there any? Yes? No? Yes? I believe there is a point. And I have absolutely no idea what it is--not fully anyways. I have ideas though, as I'm sure all of you out there do. I don't think, however, that there is one central, pure idea. It's too complex, means too many things to too many people. It's brutal, yet soothing. Harsh, yet poignent. Vulgar, yet poetic. It's Jim Steinman. You either like it or you hate it. But you can't deny it.