Results tagged “new republic” from Drama Queen



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This week I'm macking on: Mark Pinsky's New Republic article on why Barack Obama's economic stimulus proposal should include a new New Deal-style Federal Writer's Project. Journalism is imploding just as much as car manufacturing and Wall Street hedge fund pimping, and it's arguably better for us than either. Since the jury's still out on whether Congress will allow the people who brought us Hummers and those who deal in unfettered capitalism to die on the same sword by which they thrived, at the very least it ought to throw a lifeline to the one industry clairvoyant enough to call attention to this garbage long before it started to rot. And even if that industry was as retrograde in its preparation for this day as the others, well, at least we were only hurting ourselves. 

You can hear Pinsky discuss the Federal Writer's Project here on NPR's program Day to Day, which on Wednesday was cancelled and its staff laid off. You can also read Pinsky's chilling account of being axed from the Orlando Sentinel. And if you're feeling particularly masochistic, check out Paper Cuts' graphic map of 2008's layoffs and buyouts at U.S. newspapers. The Federal Writer's Project employed 6,600 people; last year alone we lost over 15,000 newspaper jobs. Brother (and by brother, I mean Mr. Obama), can you spare a dime; or rather, can you afford not to?

And I'm hating on: The fact that in his article Pinsky sideswipes the New Deal's Federal Theatre Project. What, it's less controversial or overtly political to federally subsidize journalists instead of artists? Are you kidding? Anyone who believes the right (and often the left) thinks journalism is politically neutral needs someone to remove their blinders and give them a good kick in the ass. There, did that hurt? Good. Now maybe you won't be so surprised when Obama's Federal Writer's Project (from your visionary mouth, Mr. Pinsky, to G-d's ears) gets backhanded by Congress. And you'll be able to see better when you sock them right right back with a fistful of arts programs.

Just reading through the Federal Theatre Project's accomplishments brings tears to my eyes, and I'm talking real, wet, chest-swelling tears of amazement that when things were going so terribly wrong, this country did something so right. So much of Depression-era government-sponsored artistic propaganda was concerned with integration and racial equality, it seems less than coincidental that now, as we teeter again on the abyss, we have our first African-American president waiting to take office. It also makes the possibility of a WPA-style out-of-the-closet, new-work-developing, status-quo-challenging arts program seem slightly less-far-fetched than under, say, a Bush administration... Any Bush administration. 

The FTP brought touring productions to rural areas; produced work that ranged in content from Yiddish theater to the "Living Newspaper" plays (which, though they were indeed controversial, employed plenty of out-of-work journalists); and perhaps most spectacularly, produced with its Negro Unit an all-black "Voodoo Macbeth" in Harlem, directed by the 20-year-old Orson Welles. That last one alone is the sort of miraculous event that could induce me to wear a flag pin. But more important, it underscores the point that federal support for the arts is both the hallmark and legacy of a great civilization. We, as a nation, could sure use that sort of reminder right now.

Below: Newsreel of Voodoo Macbeth

December 11, 2008 3:37 PM | | Comments (0)
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. 

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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.

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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.

August 30, 2008 10:59 AM | | Comments (2)
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