I've continued to grapple with the phrase "Listening is waiting" in the show. It's so easy to see so many different possibilities in those words -- it's very Rorschach-y...
So I decided to go straight to the source -- Stew. I'm pretty good at figuring out dense, complex texts, but sometimes there are too many choices, and the simplest answer is (when possible) to ask the writer. They never seem to mind when I ask questions like this; in fact, writers are often highly complimented that we're taking their work that seriously. So I asked Stew about "Listening is waiting," and I'm just going to reprint here what he emailed back to me... He is such a cool guy!
well, at bottom, the line is pretty straightforward:
"Listening is Waiting"
means just that: yer in an expectant state that is ready to receive, conscious, alert, sensitive to what's happening around you and to what MIGHT happen or what is ABOUT to happen, like any good musician in the middle of a jam session.
listening, for me, is active.
waiting, it would seem, is passive.
but my listening is active waiting.
and it's the same for any good musician.
now if memory serves "listening is waiting" always comes before a revelation.
The essence of rock and roll, among so many other things, is revealed to him after "listening is waiting" is sung the first time.
and i think the other time it comes is before he realizes that he's going to fill the void with music for the rest of his life.
this boy, and all musicians, but especially those his age, listens to music as if it were an oracle speaking via vinyl. he listens to hendrix and the beatles not merely to nod his head and get high to it, he is waiting to receive wisdom. He is waiting for nothing less than a revelation from this music, for something real to go down, for a sound that will change his life.*
The members of the congregation do the same thing with church and with the music of the church: they come every sunday listening for...waiting for... a revelation.
The whole congregation was listening and waiting
To be released from its collective frown.
So both parties are desperate for some kind of salvation.
his of course is quite different from theirs.
they want the burden of mortgages and the racism at their new "good" jobs to be lifted...and he wants to feel like he's living life to the fullest.
Even the bad kids in the back pew were wondering...
Is something real gonna go down?
Now some said: “Lord, please read us,
Collect us, then lead us to higher ground.”
And then all asked the very same question…
Is somethin' real goin' down?
At the end of the day, I'm not a playwright (as you've no doubt noted by now!!! :) but really just a rock and roll songwriter. And so I'm sorry if some stuff kinda just comes and goes without much explanation or foundation.
let me know if you need anything else.
Happy to oblige.
*we used to have a scene somewhere late in act one where Youth was listening to music on headphones and describing his journey into the music and what he got and expected from it.