Yesterday I was among the millions who witnessed and waited to see the fate of a little boy whizzing through the heavens in an alien helium balloon that finally … after almost ninety agonizing minutes, gently floated to a freshly plowed field in the Colorado heartlands. Two thousand years ago there was a crucifixion witnessed by people to a live drama that got seared in human consciousness forever. On September 11, 2001 my sister and I witnessed the second plane hit the second tower as it happened in real time. We realized America was being attacked and because we live in Hampton Roads, VA, which is one of the most concentrated military regions in the country we immediately thought we might be in direct danger. Like thousands of our other family and friends we moved to get our children. Eight years later that day’s traffic jams are still legendary.
Yesterday, October 15, 2009 a lot of people watched helplessly as a little boy raced across the skies towards what we feared would be certain death. Now there is suspicion that it all may have been a homemade reality show stunt. If this turns out to be the case then it won’t just be the parents at fault, but also the media and all of us who continue to witness the outrages of our culture without speaking out as it is our responsibility to do in a democracy. If the media is going to persist in presenting reality videos as investigative reporting then I want to go on record in demanding live coverage of executions. D.C. sniper John Muhammed is scheduled to die November 10, 2009. Virginia governor Tim Kaine who professes to be personally against the death penalty has said that he can find no reason to stop the execution. How about killing an insane person is barbaric?!
For “Our Boy in a Balloon” story the commentators and experts breathlessly explained that he was probably inhaling helium or that he had fallen out or that the National Guard was five minutes away from making a dramatic rescue. We, the studio audience, were told that the only thing that we could do was, “PRAY!”
I called my friend Duke and shouted, “Turn on CNN. There’s a little boy trapped in a high-flying hot air balloon. It’s Daniel’s story!”
Now, for me to say, “It’s Daniel’s story!” makes absolutely no sense if you don’t know that Daniel is a fictional character in Duke’s wonderful new musical the Rainbow Cabaret that will be opening on Thanksgiving weekend, Sunday November 29th at the Unitarian Church of Norfolk, Virginia. I am writing the book to go along with the twenty-three beautiful songs with music and lyrics by Duke Rightious that tell the story of seven people who have recently died.
As their families prepare for their funerals these seven spirits adjust to being dead and discovering that each one of them represents one of the seven colors of the rainbow. First thing they need to do is come together in the right order to form a rainbow. If they cannot manage to get this done by a certain time they will be forced to wait another 1,000 years before they get their next opportunity. One of the seven newly dead people is a little boy named Daniel.
Daniel’s color is Blue and because he’s a child and the calm, midnight, dark blue in the rainbow, when his character sings the haunting “Midnight Water” there won’t be a dry eye in the theatre. Rainbow Cabaret is a creative work of fiction that will empower those who see it in ways that will compel them to contemplate the human condition in profound and important ways. It is not that life imitates art, but rather that art illuminates life. It is in this way that the arts help societies search for truth.
Today in the 21st century on a daily basis we have all been made unwitting witnesses to the circus that reality programming, news programming and technology has spawn. We have become a culture that does not understand that there is a difference between reality and truth. Indeed, reality and truth have collided and there is no beginning nor division to where one starts and the other ends.