Needing to Know the Story Behind the Story

Jennifer Butler

OnStage Massachusetts Columnist

When people go to the theater to see a show, they leave knowing the story of the show.  How it starts and how it ends, and all the details in between. But for me, I leave wanting more. I think it’s because the writer in me is curious as to how it all came together.  I need to know the story behind the story. In all reality I have always been captivated by the stories of the theater. And I don’t just mean the book of the musical or the play itself or even the songs that move the show along. I am intrigued by the history of the theater where the show is being held, I look for the stories of the writers that created the show, what their inspiration was for the show, where the idea came from and what can I learn from it all. 

You see, inspiration, they say, is everywhere (around every corner) and that it is inspiration that leads to the idea which lends itself to the end result being the song, book, or the entire show (sometimes after many drafts). That process becomes a story within itself and that’s the story that I like to learn. 

After joining the Hamilton bandwagon, and learning that Lin-Manuel Miranda based the show on a biography, I had to go read that biography to see and to understand where Lin’s idea came from. I wanted to learn more and that I did.  As much as I have learned from the musical Hamilton, I was also able to learn something from Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton. 

And reading one book does not even begin to describe the kind of research I do to learn the story behind the story that I saw on stage. I look up the writers and find out more about them. I watch endless hours of interviews on YouTube, wanting to learn more. I look up other projects done by the writers and what led them to their current show. I just love learning the stories and I think that the more I learn, that one day I will be able to write my own. 

Yes, I know that through this and past blogs, I keep going back to the story behind the story, but that’s because everywhere I go, every show that I see there is a story being told and always something to learn. But you see I think that is why I love this crazy world of theater; there is always something to be learned and a story to be told.