Stage & Screen: ET

ET with the Minnesota Orchestra's Screen and Symphony Event

I don’t remember the first time I saw E.T. I remember the VHS tape had a green accent on it, and the letters ‘ET’ were written in this primordial-looking script. I remember E.T. watching ‘The Quiet Man’ and finding a cross-species kinship in that for some reason, and I remember loving the way the kids existed in this separate kind of world where adults flitted in and out.

When I talk with people about the movie nowadays, I realize that I somehow intuited things about the film that were never explicitly stated or existed only in vague references. I thought that the NASA man with the keys was Elliot’s dad, for example, and that’s why everyone had that kind of dazed reaction to him. “My dad’s in Mexico,” remember? And that ET was the same age as Elliot (but somehow still capable of interplanetary travel and communication?). When I started talking to people about the film and what I had just thought or come up with in my mind but didn’t realize were *canon* ET, I dropped it.

When I saw that the Minnesota Orchestra’s next Orchestra Hall movie featured ‘E.T.’Minnesota Orchestra’s next Orchestra Hall movie featured ‘E.T.’ I rounded up a crew and we set out. I hadn’t seen the movie in at least a decade, but that score is so evocative. I remembered it as exhilarating, and could’t wait to experience the thrills live.

We hit up Hi-Lo Diner (FYI Hamilfans, there are some awesome Hamilton-esque cocktails on the menu).  The meal was good, the drinks were better. We had all seen ET, but not for some years. Traversing to Orchestra Hall, we entered into the main auditorium, which is always a gasp (or at least slight inhalation)-worthy experience. The space is, of course, optimized for acoustics, and every seat is a good one. I hadn’t been to the space since I was a kid (probably along the same time I last saw ET), but I remembered the blocks seemingly tumbling out of the season. It’s awe-inspiring but also, I think, unconsciously unnerving. The audience is in a vulnerable position. It opens them up to the experience of a live orchestra in a different way than, say, simply being a classical music fan does. If that were all there was to the music, then why experience it live, right?

The movie and the music started. So did my tears. Why? I can’t explain in chemically, no PMS or things like that. There was something in experiencing it as an adult, and bringing the sum of experiences to this simple story. It was jarringly reminiscent, but like seeing it from someone else’s point of view. Childhood seems so far away, but that same sense of vulnerability was so potent to me. A being left behind, hunted, and finally coming into contact with someone who would give them a chance without wanting to study, compartmentalize them into ‘other’ and leave them to their own devices.

Compassion is strikingly lacking of late, and I won’t touch on the recent presidential elections except to say that the turmoil of the collective conscience became clearer to me that night. No, we can’t all go back to childhood ignorance–nor should we–but we can remember what it is to approach new things with curiosity and empathy instead of fear and reproach. It’s an exercise for the mind. It’s a reminder to listen and call for compassion for all beings.

I bring my own experiences and memories to shape my ideals and interactions with the world. My thoughts don’t always align with everyone, and it’s okay. But I can’t drop it anymore. It leads to frustration and tears at the symphony. I feel a little like someone suffering from Capgras Syndrome: the child I was has been replaced by me, this imposter, who can’t feel things honestly and has to mask things through the adulthood lens. This experience–slight and small time frame of my life–reminded me to that there is value in childlike wonder.

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