Political Theatre Needed for Our Time
Theatre Now, and Thereafter
By. Raimondo Graziano
~ Written sometime after the 2016 Presidential Election
We live in a time of great change. The pundits have said this, and the people too have said this. All around there are changes occurring that are shaking the foundations of our world and changing too what it is we know of our surroundings and the people who we would call our countrymen. With these changes there has also come a great confusion. Brought about by our own doing, and our failures in righting the wrongs of the previous century. We as a people are faced with a question of identity. Who are we to be in the twenty-first century? Are we a people of our sovereign nations, and of those institutions only; or are we people of the world? Are these modern cosmopolitans willing to bring the rest of the world who have not been able to taste of the fruit of their labors into the fold? Will the nations who have had so much, and done so little, afford the rest of the world a chance at being cosmopolitans too? Are we willing to build a world for all, by all? Many of these questions can be sufficiently answered enough by politicians, and by scholars, and theorists but what of the perspective of the artist? The artist being truly, firstly and chiefly a citizen of the world. The artist is not concerned with borders, and the bourgeois but with the nature of the human condition. Perhaps it is time we give the artists a chance to helm the debates of our time, perhaps it is time that the artist be the voice of the people and of its future.
Politically speaking art has always been a great medium for mass movements centering around grand and bold ideas. The problems that face our world today do not need tried and tired answers, but bold and evocative overtures that will both unsettle and upset the established order. We have to think about the coming decades and the legacy that it is we are leaving. Will we be able to move past the century before us, stronger than before or will we continue to propagate the same, same old, same old. I believe all art that is being produced has an obligation to speak to the greater character ruminating within all of us, the need for community, a longing for unity and a desire for bold, substantive, qualitative and quantitative measures and in turn, with enough support and backing; successes. Theatre I believe is the sole engine for galvanizing a movement of political might. It is both literary and dramatic, melding the greatest qualities of writing and thematic portraiture of the times with sometimes overt, and sometimes subtle dramatic flair while maintaining, if done right, the tempo of the moment to moment minutia of the days which we live and die in. It is life made larger, the stakes are always high in the theatre and that is because in life, though moving as we do from day to day we seldom see it only in what we believe are the most important moments, in life the stakes are always high. And one need only open a newspaper to see that indeed, today, the stakes for our world and its tenuous future, are staggeringly high.
Our American theatre and indeed theatres all across the globe, are highly commercialized. And for good reason I would suppose, for how is a theatre meant to operate without cash. And then you must ask but where is the cash coming from, where is the money, who is funding it and in turn, if you follow the money, what is it that the money wants to see? The monied patrons of the arts meant to give voice to thoughts and ideas of worldly esteem do not want see themselves berated, overtly attacked and the very order which they helped to build lambasted. How do we both make art of true worldly, international importance speak to audiences to such a degree that they would unite, organize and make their expression a tool of their greater political movement, while also circumventing the very funders and financiers of the medium which we would seek to radically change? It would seem that a divorce is in order.
How may such a feat be done? Well, the answer is not an easy but rather a hard and likely arduous ordeal for any one company, or many companies to undertake. As any divorce, be it on a personal or international stage. Theatre needs a committed collective of artists willing to write their own works or expand upon the works of those who have passed whereas to allow them to speak to a more modern audience; the masses we hope to cajole to action today. We must be content being without a theatre to call our own, a physical brick and mortar theatre which all of us desire. We must be content with either building our own stages for our work, stages that can be brought and shopped around with no single place being our home, but wherever it is that people willing to listen to the call of action are, our theatres will be there, acting as a forum for the discussions and controversies, and great art of more than ordinary, we will be there wherever those who seek truth may be. Modern Vaudevillians, from town to town, city to city, pushing the values of good, strong art, evocative and political theatre – bringing people under the fold of a collective vison for a more just, open and central world while giving the people a much welcome reprieve from the trials of the day. Entertainment with a greater purpose. Our society by its very nature is a political one, and in this increasingly divisive world, a stand must be taken, a side chosen – and once chosen fought fiercely for until its vision and its ideology is king. We are in the age of supremacy, and all of us, even us artists affecting the change and tempo when we can, even we are engaged in a war of supremacy. So, one must choose. And choose well.