Saturday, April 30, 2016

Wrong again Sparky

Of course there is no love lost between Sander Gusinow and myself, so I was not surprised to see Gusinow making the absurd argument that right-wingers are oppressed in theater:
It's easy to blame students' missteps on naiveté, but I've noticed the same muzzling of difficult ideas in theatre. Take for example Jonathan Reynolds' abortion drama Girls in Trouble: Theatres passed on the play for years because of its sympathetic portrayal of a pro-life character and the depiction of her beliefs onstage. It's easy to see why: New York City theatregoers are generally a left-leaning bunch. Plays that contest our liberal notions might upset the subscriber base and not sell.
Reynolds, who made a living as a food critic, liked to claim that middle-aged women were out to get him for his opposition to abortion. Unfortunately for his martyr complex his play was produced without a word of complaint by any feminists as far as I am aware. And as Reynolds himself demonstrated on his own blog (removed since I talked about it) he is a bully who pressured a vegan actor in the cast of his show to eat meat, while mocking her for making life choices of which Reynolds disapproved.

As I pointed out during the production, the idea that Reynolds' play was a much-needed balance to all the pro-abortion plays out there is absurd. There are no big theaters producing pro-abortion plays, and references to abortion tend to come with lots of ambivalence and hand-wringing. Reynolds' play, according to critics, was over-the-top and strident

As I also noted at the time, while you may be able to make a case that the theater is politically correct when it comes to representing LGBTQ issues or Jews (the play MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE actually did result in the controversy that Jonathan Reynolds could only dream of) the theater world, still ruled by men - especially obvious in the ratio of paid male to female theater critics and the underrepresentation of plays by women - has no trouble at all presenting misogynist plays, from OLEANNA to MISS JULIE to THE TAMING OF THE SHREW. Reynolds' misogyny is just part of the long theater tradition of men attacking women and preventing women from having as big a platform to strike back. 

Gusinow's article goes on to mention all the conservatives (all white men, big surprise) whose work devoted to mocking liberals and attacking progressivism get productions and win Pulitzer prizes. Which would seem to contradict his concern but he doesn't seem to be aware of that. And it's no surprise that these plays don't attack Jews or gays - they attack black people and women. And he doesn't mention Mamet's RACE, which was basically Mamet inventing a ridiculous cardboard villain who is probably based on Michelle Obama - or rather the right-wing smear version of Michelle Obama based on willful misrepresentations of her college thesis.

Of course nobody said a word against RACE other than that it wasn't an especially good play. But then women and non-whites aren't covered by the rules of political correctness in the American theater.

If anything the American theater is more likely to produce a play with an explicitly right-wing theme than one with an explicitly left-wing theme because right-wing themes are more excitingly controversial.

I think the most likely reason that explicitly right-wing themed plays are not produced more is because the commercial American theater tends to shy away from politics in general. But even more so, the conservative mindset itself is a problem, Because it accepts the premise that there was a good old days when everybody accepted the social hierarchy, and white heterosexual men were the top of that hierarchy, and they were the writers, directors, producers of plays, which were mostly focused on the concerns of white men. And any play that does not follow that mindset is, to conservatives, automatically "liberal" - whether or not it has an explicitly liberal message.

Because the conservative mindset is fundamentally unempathetic to outsiders and their concerns. Which is why they mock or ignore the concerns of outsiders until it turns out that one of their own is impacted

And theater is fundamentally empathetic. Or should be.

But nobody is stopping the Catholic Church from funding anti-abortion plays, or the Tea Party from funding more plays that misrepresent Michelle Obama. Why they don't is their own problem, it isn't liberals' responsibility to represent the views of the far right.

So no, Sparky, conservatives are not being treated unfairly in the theater. Or David Mamet wouldn't have a career - but he does even though his plays are now routinely awful.


  1. Howdy Nancy! Glad to see you're still around. You make good points! Why not make them on the TDF site so we could debate it where people could see?

  2. Already did. Go back and look at the bottom of the comment thread.

  3. Oh, wow, I just noticed that in your response to my April comment to your comment you said this: "and by the way, critics judge the performance, not necessarily the play as-written" Are you the world's biggest hypocrite or what? In your incredibly harsh review of my play JULIA & BUDDY you said NOTHING about the performance. Nothing. You didn't mention the direction, the acting, the lighting, the scenery (which was minimalistic but you didn't even mention that) or anything at all except how much you hated the plot and how much you hate Arthur Schopenhauer. Have you exactly no shame at all?

  4. I just re-read your review. Not only do you not address the performance (except to note the actors' names and that I didn't give them enough time to build romantic friction - which you explicitly pin on "the stodgy script") but you actually got personal, providing info on my work on NYCPlaywrights and then expressing surprise because I'm not "the kind of person I would peg for an infatuation with nihilistic German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer." If you had actually paid attention to the plot you would have realized that in fact I'm not "infatuated" with Schopenhauer but presented him as an ambiguous character - he gives Julia advice in the fever dream to DUMP BUDDY - which she then ignores in order to achieve the happy ending. Yes, happy ending because it's romantic comedy and that's how they work. But also, the insight into Schopenhauer that is in the play is that for all his nihilism Schopenhauer said, at one point in his career, that the best thing we can do is be kind to each other - in other words The Golden Rule that every religion teaches. And what clinches the relationship between J&B is that Buddy echoes that insight. Which he was able to do because it's such a universally popular sentiment. Now I didn't expect most audience members to pick up on that, since most people are only interested in the question of "will they get together/stay together" in a romantic comedy, and I didn't state this insight explicitly (although Julia DOES say "Schopenhauer said that" (too) to Buddy), but for someone who considers himself the sophisticated intellectual I am very surprised you did not pick up on that.