Monday, June 22, 2009

Free To Be...You and Me

There's a land that I see
Where the children are free.
And I say it ain't far
To this land, from where we are.

Take my hand. Come with me,
Where the children are free.
Come with me, take my hand, 
And we'll live...

In a land
Where the river runs free -
(In a land)
Through the green country -
(In a land)
To a shining sea.

And you and me
Are free to be
You and me.

Free To Be...You and Me was the stupendous brainchild of That Girl! Marlo Thomas.  It only seems fitting that given my recent obsession with the television series our school play this year be (coincidentally) conceived by Miss Ann Marie herself. 

When I was in sixth grade our elementary school performed this show and I have vivid memories of the repeated refrain "a doll, a doll, William wants a doll.  A doll, a doll, William wants a doll".  The role was played by a really cool boy that was very popular so he could pull off playing a boy who longed for a doll 'to wash and clean and dress and feed; a doll to give a bottle to - and put to bed when day is through".  Even as a young boy I thought what a progressive show. Free to Be indeed!

Marlo corralled her talented friends (Judy Blume, Carl Reiner, Mary Rogers, Judith Viorst, Charlotte Zolotow, Arnold Lobel and others) and each one contributed a song, story or poem. The book became an album and then a show.

In the hands of our talented school directors, Dawn and Vanessa, the show shined in an edited version of the original. Rehearsals were held during lunch periods and from my point of reference it seems as though it was put together in a very short span of time. Quite impressive!

The finished product was presented last Tuesday in the midst of the ASL Festival with two performances.  For the closing number all of the students were ushered onto the stage to sing and sign the title song. And there I go again with the water works.  

But according to the show It's All Right to Cry!


Dumdad said...

Free to be - if only the whole world would embrace that!

PS Quite a flurry of posts from you these past few days! Keep it up.

Steve said...

Marlo Thomas is my HERO. (Well, one of them!) I have "That Girl" on DVD (all three available seasons) and I also LOVED "Free to Be" when I was a kid. We sang the title song in my elementary school music class, I remember. And the show is available on DVD, as well.

When I went to Feinstein's several years ago to see Rita Moreno's cabaret show, Marlo Thomas was sitting at the next table. I nearly DIED.

Barbara said...

This was such a bold album when it came out. If only children could be allowed to live those lyrics completely our world would be a better place.

I hadn't realize that Judith Viorst, one of my all time favorite authors, was one of Marlo's friends.

Gary said...

DD - Indeed! I have been in the mood lately to blog but the feeling comes and goes. Sometimes I simply love crafting each little post and other times I have no interest at all in actually sitting down to write. I guess it has to do with how much outside writing I am doing at the time. When I am overwhelmed with school work I don't have the energy.

Thank you so much for reading and for your comments. I know that people from school and my family read the blog (but only because they tell me) but they don't leave comments (even though I want them to) so when I get comments I have to smile. I love the feedback.

Steve - Marlo is amazing! She came to speak to my acting class when I was a student at NYU studying at The Lee Strasberg Institute. She talked about That Girl and acting and I thought she was fantastic. Did you know that Seasons 4 and 5 are now available? I got them last week. AND did you know that the lyrics to the opening theme song were not added until season 5?

Barbara - Yes, she has quite an impressive line up of friends. She was also very progressive in her thinking about individuality and gender roles.

Judith Viorst is a fav of mine as well. And thank you as well for your consistent comments! How do you keep up?

Sebastien said...

Oh, I like that Free to be, I'm not familiar with that. I'm going to have to look into that, sounds way cool.

By the way, thanks for all the kind comments. I would love to make a drawing for your classroom, maybe a Star Machine style drawing? if you send me your mailing address, I can try and get something done in the coming weeks!

You can email me at

mum said...

Thanks for dropping by mum's blog, Gary. I like yours.

I read in the comments you studied at The Lee Strasberg Institute? I'm curious to know with whom? (I like all things theater.)

best to you and the kidlets in your school.

Gary said...

Sebastien - You would?! That would be amazing! I am going to have the best classroom ever!

I am emailing with my address right away. Thank you so much (can you tell I am excited?). When school starts up again in September and I have found a 'home' for the artwork I will send you a picture.

Mum - The majority of the teachers I had at Strasberg are simple working actors who never achieved any level of fame (that I know of) but I had a few who you might know.

There was acting teacher Geoffrey Horne who was the "IT" boy back in the day when he appeared in "The Bridge Over the River Kwai". He also appeared in a bunch of television programs such as "The Twlight Zone".

Another delightful acting teacher was Penelope Allen who is probably best known as the head teller in "Dog Day Afternoon". I know she has done some other work with Al Pacino and is quite well respected in the biz.

I did have one horrible, terrible, nasty acting teacher who I would love to name but he would probably love it. So it will remain hidden. Nasty, angry man who I still despise over 20 years later.

I also studied at Lincoln Center as part of David Mamet's acting troupe and some of my classmates went on to become well known (Molly Shannon from SNL).

But show business is an ugly business and best - for me anyway - to keep as a hobby rather than a profession.

LadrĂ³n de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

"Free to Be...You and Me" is a part of the Frameline/LGBT film festival here this month, interestingly enough. Thanks for that sidebar about your acting career which I've always meant to ask. Is Penelope Allen the blond woman with a bit of attitude in "Dog Day Afternoon"? I loved her in that and always wondered if her real personality was anything like her character's. If so, she must have been a great teacher!

Steve said...

Seasons 4&5?! I had no idea they were out! Woo hoo! I'm ordering them RIGHT NOW.

(I did know about the lyrics -- I never liked that song with lyrics, actually. :) )

WAT said...

Marlo Thomas is Mrs. Donahue you know! Yeah, I miss Phil's show a lot. He was the real deal that guy, and I used to love his style of questioning and playing devil's advocate. All these pseudo talk shows are lame now and don't even compare!

Gary said...

Gregg - I only knew Penny as a teacher but to me she seemed rather quiet, gentle and undemanding. Two memories stand out. The first is that at the end of the year she made it known that she did not like to have her picture taken because images stole a piece of your soul. This seemed odd coming from a film actress.

The second came when I was doing a scene from The Rose Tattoo by Tennessee Williams. She told my scene partner that I was giving her a lot to work with in the scene and she mentioned the sexy, enticing way that my short sailor-ish shirt kept rising up to expose a bit of my flat (20 year old) stomach. LOL. Odd bits to remember.

Steve - Lately there has been some debate over the lyrics. Is it "Diamonds, daisies, rubies, that girl" or 'Diamonds, daisies, rainbows, that girl?" I must look it up.

Wat - I actually never imagined the two of them together but if they make each other happy who am I to judge? I see that you have been busy today catching up on my recent spate of posts. Thanks!

Vanessa said...

You're the greatest! Thank you for all your support... :)


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