Apropos of my posting about President Obama’s visit to New York to see August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, I received the following e-mail from a New York drama critic who shall remain nameless:
I find it sad that your massive ideological blinders prevent you from applauding the fact that a sitting president recognizes theater–never mind if it’s Broadway or a regional venue–as a worthy form of entertainment. If Bush, during one of his two terms, had attended a Broadway show, I can’t imagine you cobbling together this caviling post.
Or maybe you can explain to me how Bush promoted art in America, not simply fear and militarism.
To gratuitously impugn the motives of those with whom you disagree is the height of vulgarity. In this case, it’s also ignorant:
• I am, as anyone who knows my work is well aware, a constant and passionate advocate for American regional theater. That alone should be enough to explain why I wrote what I did.
• President Obama, so far as I know, has yet to attend a play in Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital and a major center of regional theater.
• I didn’t mention it in my original posting because I haven’t seen it, but Studio Theatre, one of Washington’s very best drama companies, is currently performing Radio Golf, August Wilson’s last play.
• My posting, needless to say, had nothing to do with President Bush, but I do think it worth pointing out that he put Dana Gioia, a poet of the highest distinction, in charge of the National Endowment for the Arts. Among countless other worthy things, Dana launched Shakespeare in American Communities, a program whose long-range impact on the American theater community–not just in New York, but in every part of the country–will doubtless prove to be vastly more significant than that of President Obama’s decision to take his wife to a Broadway show. (For what it’s worth, President Bush also appointed me to the National Council on the Arts, the NEA’s civilian review panel.)
So who’s wearing ideological blinders?