Monday, April 18, 2011


You know, I really hate to pivot this wildly away from the intended purpose of a post I'm responding to. So before I say anything, let me just say that this post by 99 Seats is a really good look at why our segregated theater doesn't include a lot of non-traditional examples. Go read it first and think about what he has to say.

Done? Good. Because I had a visceral response to this sentence from that post:
First off, I'm not one to go in for a lot of playwright triumphalism/exceptionalism, but I don't think it's too much to say that, historically, playwrights have been at the forefront of making social change and responding to world events.
Um. Responding to world events maybe. But can we really say that theatermakers in general have been "at the forefront" of making social change?

I can think of some anecdotal support. Vaclav Havel, for instance, was a playwright and also the first elected President of Czechoslovakia after its independence, in no small part to his role in the dissidence movement. But I don't know how many Czechs who consider him a hero have ever seen a play of his; I don't know if his theater was any more relevant to his success than ballet was to Rahm Emanuel's.

But equally, you can see artists flailing in the wind as the ship of culture turns away. The phrase "Never was satire more alive than during the twilight days of the Weimar Republic" comes to mind.

Are we at the forefront of social change, or are symptomatic of social change as it happens?

But anyways, that's just a gnawing doubt I have. I promise that I'll respond to the substance of posts in the future, not leaping on one sentence that strikes me strangely.