Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Theater of Self-Congratulation

Reposted from February 2008, just because I like it.

A psychiatrist friend was terribly excited to tell me that the troupe which had put on a "stunning," "marvelous" production in Concord last year was going to be back by popular demand this year! Last year's production was about the Scopes monkey trial, with Ed Asner playing "the conservative." This year's traveling production is going to be about the Pentagon Papers.

First, should I be discussing this at all with a person, professional and educated person though he be, who can't pull William Jennings Bryan's name out? I would insert in any serious discussion that Bryan would be more properly called a populist, but knowing how these things are presented, I just shrug at "conservative" as a descriptor. It's Ed Asner. There's an agenda. They feed on people who grasp what the socially acceptable idea is without too much bother about the facts. I doubted strongly that the script would be based on this history of the events.

So this year it's the Pentagon Papers. My immediate thought was what will be next year - McCarthyism? And the year after that, the Inquisition? Is this a theater company that makes its daily bread by tolling the liberal liturgy? I looked them up. Left hand column, Brecht's Galileo, followed by The Best of Arthur Miller. I hit the double! The Inquisition and McCarthyism! Do I know these people or what?

Credit where credit is due: the company is also doing two by Moliere and Noel Coward's Private Lives. I can't fault that. They've even got Neil Simon going. Not my favorite, but nothing to sneer at politically, anyway.

For newer, groundbreaking things they've got A Huey P. Newton Story, and The Busy World Is Hushed, described thusly:
With wisdom, humor and insight, THE BUSY WORLD IS HUSHED examines the contradictions we find in our faith, our families and ourselves. Hannah, a widowed Episcopal minister, is hoping to translate a long-lost gospel when she is challenged by both her scholarly assistant and her wayward gay son. But when family secrets are revealed, only the intercession of a stranger can help Hannah find peace. This audio production includes an exclusive interview with playwright Keith Bunin.

It's sort of like group masturbation, isn't it? The arts, especially theater, used to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy.


Grim said...

The arts also used to not; Shakespeare didn't make much fun of James I, and in fact might be accused of flattering his sentiments at times (e.g. in Macbeth), but he still made some pretty good plays.

Still, you're perfectly right. These particular incidents (or rather the mythological retelling of them) keep coming up and keep being told because they flatter the prejudices of the sort of folks who go to the theater. I haven't been to a play in years, although I used to go from time to time. It became tiresome rather than enjoyable.

Korora said...

Sounds like the Goofy Gophers would make Busy World more enjoyable, with their visual slapstick MSTing (c.f. "A Ham in a Role").