Results tagged “barack obama” from Drama Queen
This Chicago Tribune story about President Obama's pattern of personal involvement with the arts is enough to warm the hearts of every economically-stressed, museum-going, dance-loving, theater-attending American. I don't know if it means Quincy Jones will finally get his cabinet-level Secretary for the Arts, but at the very least our fearless leader seems like someone who just might consider the idea.
So maybe Mr. Jones should also consider getting Gamble and Huff on board--after all, if you read about two-thirds of the way down the Tribune's article, you'll notice that our president went far out of his way to see a play that had its world premiere in Philadelphia, was written by a Philadelphian, and is all about Philadelphia issues:
"In 2005, Michelle and Barack Obama journeyed to the Chicago suburb of Skokie for the Northlight Theatre production of the Thomas Gibbons drama "Permanent Collection." The play, based on the real-life, art-and-race controversy at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia starred the actor Harry J. Lennix, a friend of the Obamas."
The Lennix connection is purely incidental, I'm sure.
(At left: Tim Moyer and Frank X in InterAct Theatre's original production of Permanent Collection.)
In an effort to stick to a blogging schedule, I'm going to start posting a "Weekly Mack Attack" on Fridays, a shout-out and call-out of whatever got under my skin during the previous seven days. The first entry comes from the realm of political theater, and even though you wanted to leave during intermission (That's what this whole "break" in the campaign was, right?) they can't/won't refund your ticket. At least the second act will be shorter than the first.
This week I'm hating on: John McCain's electioneering. Yeah sure, that's like shooting fish in a barrel, and next week I promise not to go for anything so obvious, and maybe even for something arts related, but come on, already. John McCain: save the drama for your sugar mama. Learn to multi-task. What really worries me is that considering Sarah Palin's recent transformation from Miss Alaska also-ran to Miss South Carolina (such as and, the Iraq), he's just crazy enough to dump her... But just sane enough to wait until after Obama's next significant polling uptick.
This week I'm macking on: The array of Barack Obama goodies on Etsy, a clearinghouse for all things handmade. There are McCain items too, but as we learned this week, conservatives are boring. So is their political paraphernalia. The best they came up with? "Nobama" t-shirts. Obamazons? They're uniters, not dividers. Hip-hop lovers can order "Obama Said Knock You Out" shirts, while metalheads can tear it up in one that screams (but not in a German accent) "Here I Am, Barack You Like a Hurricane." Indie types can smirk in their ironic Andy Warhol-style "Yes We Can" American Apparel tees. Fancy folk can order up a hand-calligraphied "Elitists for Obama" button and lace their election night parties with some Obama portrait cookies. And old-schoolers can "Rock Out with Your Barack Out" on a glossy 3x5 print. So many ways to beg your fellow Americans not to screw this one up.
Below: Electioneering we can enjoy--Easy Star All-Stars' Radiodread version of the Radiohead song.
So with all the ruckus about Sarah Palin's VP nomination, I haven't seen much about her stand on arts funding (I've also been submerged in a Fringe Fest fog for the past week-and-a-half, so if I missed something on ArtsJournal about the issue, my apologies). If she's truly aligned with her running mate John McCain, she'd be all for eliminating arts funding altogether.
Well, turns out it's not that simple. It seems that under Palin's governorship, the Alaska State Council on the Arts (AKSCA) has increased its funding very slightly--just over 4%--to nonprofit artists and organizations. But while on the surface this appears to be promising news, it comes with the caveat that the council ran out of grant funds by the end of the third quarter of FY2007, and thus, "was only able to receive applications for three of the four normal quarterly grant deadlines." As AKSCA's operating report budget changes the information it includes from year to year, I'm not sure if this is due to more money going to fewer organizations or just plain poor planning. However, it does appear that before Palin's tenure, arts funding was on the decline in her state, and has since seen an incremental increase.
The most significant bump in AKSCA's funding comes in grants to schools for arts education, which last year rose just over 31%. This number doesn't include grants for field trip transportation (there were 68 of those, if you were wondering, though the report doesn't say whether this number increased or decreased). Participation in Alaska's Arts Education Consortium--an art teachers' professional development conference--has also increased under Palin, with the number of teachers rising from 27 in 2005 to 70 in 2008.
Of course, just because Palin accepted money for arts funding and kept Alaska's Council on the Arts open doesn't mean she'll be a friend of the arts once she becomes VP, heaven help us (Hey, it's a blog, not a newspaper. Go read the Inquirer if you want impartiality). Considering her ties to Pat Buchanan and far right sympathies, this widely circulated bit from Time magazine about her tenure as Wasilla's mayor:
Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor.
and Artnet's report on her slashing of Wasilla's Dorothy G. Page Museum budget, it's probably safe to say artistic freedom isn't high on Palin's list of national priorities. The Obama/Biden ticket has laid out its Platform in Support of the Arts for all to see, but don't bother searching the word "arts" on the McCain-Palin site, because it's not there. And consider this: if the arts don't even merit a mention on the candidates' website, what will happen to the country's arts and culture economy when they are in office?
In this year's presidential election, "political theater" is getting a literal spin. And why not? Elections--and their behind-the-scenes machinations--are always events of high drama. But with this race's epic, historic themes it appears the temptation toward artistic license was too much for editors and pundits to resist.
Way back in April, Newsday columnist Ellis Henican interviewed me for his radio show about the Clinton-Obama debate, asking for a theater critic's interpretation of the proceedings (I was a Clinton supporter, and thought the Obama camp was hoping to portray her as Lady Macbeth. It seems ultimately, she managed that feat on her own.)
Now the thespian angle seems to really be catching on. The Wall St. Journal's Andy Jordan posted a bit of video reportage (see below) from the DNC with this title: "Democratic Convention: Nomination as Theater." And though Jordan is more conversant in the language of film than of stage, he puts in a valiant effort to describe the event's mise en scene.
Today, a piece by playwright Christopher Durang appeared on the New Republic's site, parsing speech by speech, the DNC's dramatic appeal. The best part, to me, of Mr. Durang's endeavor is that it really serves as a reminder to readers and editors everywhere that neither arts journalism nor theater criticism are as easy as they look. Though Durang is a fine playwright (and something of a Philly local, too; he has a home in Bucks County), Walter Kerr, he ain't.
On Monday, my friend Dominic Papatola, theater critic for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, will cover the Rebublican National Convention for his paper--a pretty exciting turn of events for a guy more accustomed to the sedate halls of the Guthrie than the Xcel Energy Center's hockey- or RNC-fueled mayhem. I'm hoping his coverage will include more than a few dramatic references, as the Republicans, with their Deus ex Machina--otherwise known as Sarah Palin--and Shavian cast of characters lend themselves particularly well to cynical interpretations of their performance. Not that I'm, you know, biased or anything.
And hey, maybe this shifting of duties will turn out to be a good thing for all those arts critics clinging desperately to their jobs. I turns out our perspective just might be useful after all.
Seen any other examples of political coverage as arts coverage? Send me a link.
Update: Brendan Kiley, an arts writer for Seattle weekly The Stranger, is taking his campaign coverage to a new level--by getting pepper sprayed at protests.