Should Political Art Be Entertaining?

This will be rambly:

So tonight are the first of two performances of the Election Day Plays 2012 that I’ve been organizing, and I’ve been thinking a little about the nature of political art, particularly political theatre.

I think when most people hear “political theatre” they think “OH GOD NO.”  They presume what they see will be agit-prop; it will be strident, humorless, and berating.  Particularly in this day and age of instant scandals on Facebook and Twitter, not many people want to shell out twenty bucks to go see some actors tell them through a thinly-veiled story that These People Are Suffering And You Should Be Upset About It. 

Although sometimes they do, when, at least, the play in question has an Important enough reputation AND is widely reported to be Entertaining, as those two plays among plenty of others are.

Perhaps people have an aversion to small-scale political theatre, but they have no problem with “actual” plays that happen to have political themes.  Perhaps people like to feel like they’re being civic and connected and smart when they’re getting some entertainment.  And plenty of TV and

I aimed to make the play I wrote for this evening entertaining as well as politically provocative, and I’m happy to report the other five playwrights did the same. 

Perhaps the point of political theatre (or other political art) is specifically to make politics entertaining.  It seems, sometimes, that even despite the hyperbolic efforts of the news media, that our political discourse is designed to be off-putting and esoteric as a kind of gatekeeping method.  (Or that might just be a natural consequence of politics being what they are.)  Arts and entertainment can take thick, mealy stuff like health care and history and culture wars and make them… well, fun.  Perhaps people want to know about these things, and think about these things, but they just can’t stomach/understand/slog through the media discourse.

Anyways, those are some thoughts and I had them and you read them.  If you want some more constructed and considered thoughts in the form of comedy and drama, and those of not just myself but five others and possibly your fellow audience members, AND if you live in DC or MD, come see the plays tonight.  If you don’t live in the area… uh, leave a comment or something.  Thanks!

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3 comments

  1. […] in Play Submission Reading Folksinger Beaches and Pop Star Piers What Makes Local Theatre Local? Should Political Art Be Entertaining? Posts About or Inspired by Specific […]

  2. Anonymous · · Reply

    If you claim that nobody likes being challenged, why would you want to do challenged someone in this article?

    1. Sometimes it’s important to do something that people don’t like (as long as they don’t hate it/it’s not harmful to them) if you think it will lead to a better future.

      My opinion has evolved since writing that original article you’re referring to (https://babelwright.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/no-you-dont-actually-like-being-challenged/#comment-74); I now think that a real challenge can occasionally plant a seed that grows beyond the initial “concerned” reaction and leads to change later.

      It’s also worth pointing out that what is challenging to some audiences is coaxing to others, and belief-developing for others.

      There are different ways to challenge people (and to challenge yourself). One is to write blog posts that are openly challenging in the hopes someone will read it in the same way people will make themselves go to the dentist – or because they don’t want to think of themselves as someone who doesn’t like being challenged MORE than they do not want to be challenged on the particular topic. Their response may be to only roll their eyes at the author, but perhaps one sentence makes them reconsider one small belief of theirs.

      Also, personally, trying different methods of argumentation (challenging, coaxing, entertaining, etc) helps me learn better what works and doesn’t work and refine my own beliefs.

      So, there’s a lot of reasons why I would – and will – write something meant to be challenging, even though I claim that nobody likes being challenged.

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