It’s a question I ask myself a lot.
When you’re married to someone from a culture that’s not your own, you often find yourself wondering, “Is it him or is it his culture?”
As far as life’s great mysteries go, the culture-person conundrum is right up there with the chicken-and-the-egg. Or the nature-nurture debate.
But if it’s unclear where culture leaves off and an individual’s personality steps in, one thing seems certain — sometimes culture compels us to do wacky things.
Which brings me to Annie Edson Taylor, the first women to go over Niagara Falls and survive.
Ms. Taylor’s astounding and outrageous true story is the subject of the fantastic new musical drama Queen of the Mist, starring two-time Tony nominee, Mary Testa, as Annie.
Have Barrel, Will Hurtle
In 1901, the sixty-three year-old Taylor cooked up the idea of shooting the rapids in a wooden barrel that she designed herself.
Why? For fame and fortune, of course.
At least, those are the most obvious reasons. Widowed and in debt, the eccentric Ms. Taylor had already failed at several money-making schemes before she hit on her wildest idea of all. (Hey, a girl’s gotta’ make a living somehow.)
So, yes, hunger for big bucks and public adulation were part of what pushed Ms. Taylor over the brink.
But there were more powerful forces at work too.
Culture Made Her Do It
Annie was convinced that she possessed a unique and unfulfilled potential, and she was determined to manifest it. “We are all capable of that which is impossible,” she exclaims, “You must follow your dreams!”
Sound familiar? Individualism. Self-determination. The “can-do” attitude. These cultural values were already deeply embedded in the American psyche way back in 1910 when Annie triumphed over the Falls.
Fast forward 100 years and those same values still beat deep in the heart of most Americans.
- You have nothing to fear but fear itself.
- Be all that you can be.
- Just do it!
- Yes, we can.
As personal mantras, advertising gimmicks and political slogans, they’re very potent.
But if you’re not careful, you can get swept along in the current.
Just ask Annie Taylor.
Your Turn Now
What about you? How much of your behavior is just you? And how much of it is your culture? And do you ever wish you could separate the two?
Wait! What Happened to Annie?
What? You want me to spoil the story!? Go see Queen of the Mist and find out for yourself!
- Queen of the Mist, with words and music by five-time Tony nominee Michael John LaChiusa, under the direction of Jack Cummings III, is presented by the Transport Group through December 4.
- To purchase tickets, visit the show’s website and use the MamaDrama discount code TGMAMA for $10 off.
- Visit MamaDrama on BroadwayWorld for more blog posts about Queen of the Mist.
- Thanks to MamaDrama for providing me with complimentary tickets.
FCC Disclosure: I attended this performance, with complimentary tickets provided, as a reviewer and contributor on behalf of MamaDrama. The opinions expressed here are strictly my own.