The Story of America is a story of epic journeys. From the Pilgrims to the Oregon Trail to Mexican border crossings, we thrive on and mythologize these heroic travels to find a better life on this Nation’s soil.
In Season Three of Mad Men, Peggy Olsen sends her mother into conniptions when she announces her decision to move from Brooklyn to Manhattan. There is comic value in this of course, but it makes the point that small stories of emigration are just as important to our identity as Americans. In the personal stories we’ve shared throughout the Beertown rehearsal process, we’ve seen this. For all of us, our identities are clearly shaped by the fact that we’ve left a place, and whatever the distance of the emigration – just like Peggy Olson and the Pilgrims – that place we left still shapes us every day. The need to leave, whether across a river or across an ocean, is bound tightly with our sense of self, and indeed with our sense of relevance. We leave our homes to find our true selves, to discover our true callings. And in the process we naturally find that our homes are just as much a part of the fabric of our identity as anything. I, for instance, will always be a Northern Midwestern Suburban Cubs Fan despite the fact that I have begun to develop certain Mid-Atlantic speech patterns such as the flat glottal “o” that changes the word “snow” to “snew”. From a dramatic point of view, small changes like this are potentially much more interesting – more room for comedy, more nuance in the emotion, and room to see ourselves as straddling the line between grotesques and true beings, to see ourselves balancing our identities as selves rooted to both one place and to another. And certainly, it tells a more personal story.
As I write, the story of Beertown is beginning to take a similar shape. While a community can’t simply uproot its buildings and its people to move somewhere else (or can it?), it can certainly find ways to reinvent itself. It might choose to rewrite its history by accentuating certain stories in favor of others. It might choose to invite a Wal-Mart into its midst, or to block industrial development in favor of a revitalized “historic downtown”. The town may choose to reincorporate itself as a city or to dissolve itself entirely. Regardless, the Beertown that we’re creating is on the brink of audacious reinvention, a reinvention that will be rooted just as much in Beertown’s past as in its future.