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City of Songs by Seunghoon Song

Posted by on Friday, November 20, 2015 in News.

City of Songs is a darkly comic and music-filled exploration of race, identity, and what it means to be American in present-day Nashville through the perspective of an immigrant family. The general plot of the play focuses mainly on the different hardships faced by an immigrant family, but concludes with the idea that “you can find beauty in anything.” However, I think that the purpose of the play goes further than the ceaselessly invoked Hollywood ‘happy ending.’ By focusing on the contemporary life of immigrants who struggle with keeping their business alive due to the increasing competition, the play seems to touch upon the larger issue of increasing economic inequality through the increasing costs of living in this city.

Primarily, it is important to first examine and understand the “urban crisis” Nashville is experiencing in order to see if there is any plausibility of the play’s intention to portray a larger social issue. The Nashville region is now one of the nation’s fastest-growing economies, but Nashville used to be a “not popular, but cheap” place to live as stated by Rovena Firari, the mom of the immigrant family in the play. She and her family came to Nashville to open up their business, Burger Bomb, because she and her husband, Isidor, thought that “Nashville would be a great opportunity for our children”. Yet, in the past decade, economic development in Nashville has increased by 58 percent in conjunction with the poverty rate which has risen 42 percent, with almost one in five residents living in poverty.1 While Nashville prides itself on its hospitality by welcoming millions of tourists to town each year, its public servants – our police officers, school teachers, and firefighters – can’t afford to live here and must commute to work from other counties.2

Significantly, the difficulties the Firari family continuously experiences within the play reflect the current problems that are arising through Nashville’s economic growth. Near the beginning of the play, the landlord of Burger Bomb who is also a real estate developer, Mr. Hammersmith, comes to tell the Firari family that the amount of money they agreed upon to buy the land for their business is no longer enough. After much arguing, Mr. Hammersmith pulls out a check and states, “This is the highest price I got for this lot. Do you have the funds to match this?” This scene clearly portrays the rising costs of land in Nashville due to its recent economic boom and increasing competition that can easily drive out small businesses in order to create an image of “luxury” as expressed by Mr. Hammersmith. In order to pay off the land, the son of the Firari family, Fatos, works extremely hard. Isidor even admits that his son works with “more passion and hard work than” he ever put. Later in the play, Fatos even ends up selling “everything he cares about” like his leather jacket in order to gather as much money as he can to pay off Mr. Hammersmith. The play seems to point to the fact that many small businesses are struggling to survive in Nashville or do not generate enough revenue to cover the increasing costs of the land, which reflects the many public servants in Nashville who cannot afford to live in the city.

It seems like the director of the play intended to make everything work out in the end to leave the audience with a positive image of the city and to find hope and “beauty in everything” in times of struggle. Yet, such last minute luck does not reflect the reality of most low-income families who are struggling to pay the increasing living costs in Nashville and have to move out. The main purpose of the play was not to address an issue with the rising costs of land in Nashville since the Firari family is eventually able to narrowly escape the need to shut down their business by finding a cheaper plot of land to completely own and operate Burger Bomb. However, the financial difficulties of running a business in Nashville that the Firari family experiences definitely reflects the current issue of increasing economic disparity.


Works Cited

1. http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/contributors/2015/02/16/tale-two-nashvilles/23504385/

2. http://archive.tennessean.com/article/20130921/BUSINESS01/309210036/Nashville-s-economic-growth-among-fastest-U-S-



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