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September 21, 2019 | Theatre,

Passengers and the Stories of Travel

The 7 Fingers arrive in Boston for their US premiere of Passengers (SEP 25-OCT 13) this week and we at ArtsEmerson would like to reflect on the films and novels whose insights on life’s journeys and travels echo the poignant musings of The 7 Fingers latest engagement. As each character in Passengers has their own path, both The 7 Fingers and the list below remind us that sometimes, the journey is truly the destination.

What better way to begin than with Little Miss Sunshine, one of the seminal road-trip films of American cinema that deftly captures the essence of our individual journeys and how they coalesce at specific moments in time. The Academy Award winning film tells the story of a dysfunctional family, each with their own idiosyncrasies and philosophies, driving cross-country to help their daughter realize her dream of winning the Little Miss Sunshine pageantry contest. Akin to Passengers, the nexus of this film lies in its ability to illuminate the beauty in the paths our journeys follow, from where we started, where we are, and where we’ll be. The film expertly captures this ethos in how it chronicles the formation of a family who depart as distanced, spiritually traveled individuals living on separate tracks of life, but as their rickety Volkswagen van rolls along, they slowly find their way to each other and arrive as one messy, but loving family.

Murder on the Orient Express, based on the novel by Agatha Christie of the same title, packs a tangle of men and women into a snowbound train who share nothing in common, or so we think, besides the fact they have chosen the Orient Express to get to their destination. When speaking to the press, 7 Fingers Director Shana Carroll recalled a similar observation when discussing the inspiration behind Passengers sharing that “there is also the element of chance: we take the decision to get on a train, but at the same time we are stuck in it, without knowing the people who accompany us, and we have no control over the sequence of events.” In the film, when a passenger is suddenly discovered to be murdered in his sleep, the World’s Greatest Detective, Hercule Poirot, also aboard the train, is tasked with interrogating each of the passengers as part of his investigation to reveal the murderer. Shana Caroll also cites Murder on the Orient Express as a narrative inspiration during the initial stages of conceiving the show. When we board a train, we are unified by our decision to ride the train but as the film and Passengers illustrate, we all have a story behind our arrival as well.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac is a novel inspired by the author’s travels with real-life friend Neal Cassady. The novel tells the story of two young men drifting away from everyday life, embarking on a cross-country quest in search of meaning. As they bounce from New York to California to Mexico, imbued with an unparalleled air of freedom, their hope is to return to civilization with a more informed, renewed sense of hope about the world. While their journey marks a search for something they may not even find, their belief in the motive of the journey propels them every step of the way in this classical piece of American literature.

Featured in Oprah’s coveted book club is our second novel, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, a story written by Cheryl Strayed about a 22 year old who, in the wake of her mother’s recent demise, loses everything she loves and impulsively decides to hike over 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail by herself. A tale of mettle and resilience, the story unfolds with an edge that’ll send a warmth throughout your body while leaving you terrified at the same time. The novel entrancingly captures the emotions of a young woman in her odyssey of self-healing and invigoration as she picks up the pieces from a time period beleaguered by loss.

Our last novel is Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback by Robyn Davidson. This classic 1980s memoir retraces Robyn Davidson’s journey across the Australian outback, accompanied by only her dog and four camels. Propelled by an empathy for Australia’s indigenous people and her love of her native landscape, Robyn overcomes a series of life-threatening obstacles on her quest to better understand her place in the world. As we follow her footsteps under the baking sun of the Australian desert, watching her fend off snakes and aggressive male swindlers, we get lost in the powerful story of transformation and discovery that roots itself in the core of the text.

In one week, we’ll be welcoming The 7 Fingers back for their U.S. premiere of Passengers (SEP 25-OCT 13) and we couldn’t be more elated to celebrate the opening of our 10th Anniversary Season with this incredible troupe of circus artists and storytellers who have brought such joy and wonder to the Boston community. Come along for the ride that is Passengers, arriving next week in Boston!

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