CMU School of Drama

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Washington is in line for a huge shipment of political theater

The Washington Post: In its guise as a company town, Washington is the nation’s hub for lawmaking, rulemaking and policymaking. Now, Arena Stage is mounting a major effort to make plays about all those things that Washington has been making.

Arena’s artistic director, Molly Smith, announced Tuesday that the organization will devote a considerable chunk of its energies over the next 10 years to commissioning and, in many cases, producing new works that focus on the ideas and people shaping American policy and politics.

5 comments:

Jasmine Lesane said...

I myself am still struggling to take in both the election and how theatre takes it in. The last time I commented on an article concerning theatres new mission I said how I was very unsure about our efforts and change. I am no longer there. I do believe we can change. Concerning that, I think the resurgence in political theatre in Washington is awesome. I really hope more people follow suit. One thing I really hope artists and citizens realize from this election is that hatred, ignorance, and bigotry is hiding all around us. In every state. Privileged liberals can no longer pretend that racism is only alive in Alabama. 61 million people found it in themselves to vote hatred into the white house. I think previously there was this mentality that people like that, people who would’ve voted for trump are worlds away from the theatre. But they are so close to home. Yes North Carolina went red which wasnt shocking, but so did Pennsylvania, so it is clear that both of my homes need a real banging over the head with political theatre. So overall my point is that a trump supporter is a “normal person.” They don’t all wave confederate flags. And because of the sheer amount in every state, I am forced to believe that a jefty majority of them frequent the theatre, or consume some kind of art. So, because we know that, because we can’t stop by just arguing with people with “Make America Great Again” hats, we have to educate everyone, businessmen, teachers, everyone that comes into the theatre. And outside of it too.

Rachel said...

I think this is excellent. I’m excited for the scope of the project, for the stream of relevant, insightful, new work, and for the number of playwrights being given the opportunity to create that work. Perhaps an honest look at our past will help us understand our national selves better so we can move forward.

Having said that, the article mentions a local reluctance to make political theatre because those who work in politics won’t be inclined to see work onstage. That could be true, but I think there is another question here: if you’re making theatre for those involved with politics… don’t you think the people who come to the theatre to see a political play probably already agree with your politics? The great question for theatres will be: are we making theatre for the people who really need it? Are we making art for consumption by people who already “think like us”? Are we reinforcing the echo chamber?

Mary Frances Candies said...

This is incredible! Political theatre in Washington that promotes up and coming playwrights - amazing! I am surprised, to be honest, to see Washington theatre taking such an active stance in becoming political. It will be interesting to see what kind of audience these plays attract. I wonder is president elect Trump will ever attend one of these plays...
I am a huge fan of the educational nature these plays will maintain. Like Jasmine, I agree that education is of the utmost importance during these times. I think supporting playwrights to write educational pieces on American history is a marvelous action to take post election. Hopefully some sort of program gets set in place that allows for these plays to be viewed by a larger audience.

Alex Kaplan said...

As someone who lives in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area, I am very excited to see how the DC theatre scene will evolve to fit the situation our country finds itself in. I think that having political theatre so close to politics should be explored more, as the shows don’t really end when the curtain comes down. Seeing a show about congress and then stepping outside and seeing the capitol can really make a message hit hard. I think that Arena Stage is definitely a great place to lead this initiative. Just last year, Arena Stage participated in the Women’s Voices Theatre Festival, which produced new work written by women, so it is no stranger to taking on issues of the outside world and putting them behind and on stage. I am excited to keep track of this project at Arena, and hopefully, I will be home at some points to be able to see some of this work.

Katie Pyne said...

When in Rome, do as the Romans do, it seems! I heard about this initiative secondhand, and I was intrigued from the get-go. One quote that comes to mind when thinking about Arena Stage's 10 year plan is: "Those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it." I know that Hamilton gets brought up in a lot of talk these days, but I do think that it's the first step in really using theater to take a closer look our past governments and reframe our worldview. I think Washington is the best place to make political theater because you have both parties living in the same city, whereas any one city might only have a a large theater-going population of only one or the other. We talk a lot about breaking out of our bubbles, and what better way to do that then bringing the bubble to the epicenter itself.

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