Gwyneth Paltrow claims to have introduced yoga to the United States. Not exactly. This quote can be read a few ways but there is some hubris no matter how you look at it:

“Forgive me if this comes out wrong,” Paltrow said, before allowing it to, yes, come out wrong. “I went to do a yoga class in L.A. recently and the 22-year-old girl behind the counter was like, ‘Have you ever done yoga before?’ And literally I turned to my friend, and I was like, ‘You have this job because I’ve done yoga before.’’

The above is a side note — a digression — because what I really want to discuss is how artists can use their art to invent a place that has long existed.  Last night Netflix aired Springsteen on Broadway. This is what Springsteen had to say about the Jersey Shore. Before I quote The Boss let me warn you that there are expletives so please move on if you are uncomfortable. Here it is:

I listen to the radio, and I think I’m as good as that guy, I’m better than that guy. So why not me? Answer: Because I live in the fucking boondocks. … There is nobody here, and no one comes down here. It’s a grave. There was no Jersey, Jersey, Jersey Shore, Jersey Almighty shit. I invented that!

Now how true is this? Not true at all. Just do a little poking around the net and you will find that the “first passenger flight in American history was flown from New York to Atlantic City.”  Though Atlantic City is over an hour away from Springsteen’s hometown the two locations are part of the Shore. In fact, one of Springsteen’s greatest songs is Atlantic City

Was Springsteen making a Paltrowesque claim? No. 

The Jersey Shore existed long before Springsteen but he romanticized it. He took it from amusement parks, boardwalks, and crowded beaches — very crowded — into the realm of the imagination. In fact, in one of his earliest songs he mentions the boardwalk five times, the pier twice, arcades and fortune tellers once. He was writing about something that was already there; but with melody and words he was pulling us into an imaginary world. A world where young people sit on the hood of a dodge drinking warm beer. He shows us a world of abandoned houses and abandoned dreams.  He was, in fact, inventing the Jersey Shore.

In television we call what Springsteen is doing worldbuilding. It’s a world that has some remnants of ours but one that’s imagined. It’s probably one of the most difficult things to do but when done right it captures our imagination and sometimes even our souls. 

When Springsteen talks about inventing the Jersey Shore he may be right. Until someone else steps forward and decides to do some worldbuilding of their own we have to settle for girls combing their hair in rearview mirrors and boys trying to look so hard while the amusement park rises bold and stark. 

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Rogelio Martinez

Rogelio is the winner of the first ever Mid-Career Fellowship at the Lark Theater Company. Ping Pong, his play about Nixon, Mao, and the hippie that brought the two together, is part of this season’s Public Studio series at The Public.  His new play, Born in East Berlin, will be given a workshop at the Arden in April.  Some of Rogelio’s plays include Wanamaker’s Pursuit  (Arden Theater),  When Tang Met Laika  (Sloan Grant/ Denver Center/ Perry Mansfield),  All Eyes and Ears (INTAR at Theater Row),  Fizz (NEA/ TCG Grant/ Besch Solinger Productions at the Ohio Theatre, New Theater Miami),  Learning Curve (Smith and Krauss New Playwrights: Best Plays of 2005/ Besch Solinger Productions at Theater Row),  I Regret She’s Made of Sugar (winner of the 2001 Princess Grace Award),  Arrivals and Departures (Summer Play Festival),  Union City... (E.S.T, winner of the James Hammerstein Award), and Displaced  (Marin Theater Co.) In addition, Rogelio’s work has been developed and presented at the Public Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Mark Taper Forum, South Coast Repertory, the Magic Theater, and Ojai Theater Company among others. Rogelio is an alumnus of New Dramatists and his plays are published by Broadway Play Publishing. He has received commissions from the Mark Taper Forum, the Atlantic Theater Company, the Arden Theater Company, Denver Center Theater, and South Coast Repertory.  In the past Rogelio has been profiled in a cover story in American Theater Magazine. In addition to writing, Rogelio teaches playwriting at Goddard College, Montclair University, and Primary Stages as well as private workshops. For several years Rogelio was a member of the Dorothy Strelsin New American Writer’s Group at Primary Stages. In television, Rogelio has written for Astroblast, a children’s television show. Rogelio was born in Cuba and arrived in this country in 1980 during the Mariel boatlift.  He lives in New York with his family.  

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