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« Critics Who Suck, Part II | Main | John Lahr On Stage Fright »

Friday, 01 September 2006


Marc Spector

I found the article/interview with Peter Marks to be a really interesting read. He seems very even-handed, thoughtful, and obviously intelligent. To my dismay however, I read his recent musings about the lack of DC political theatre and found it absolutely absurd.


Anybody who pays attention at all to recent productions in the area could name dozens of political plays across multitudes of subjects and viewpoints that have been on Washington stages in the past few years. Does a play have to have Rummy or Connie as a character in order to qualify? I was going to rant on the Wash post comments side of the article, but it seemed my baby rant was 3 times too long for the paltry 500 characters the Post site allows.

Here's my beef with the article:

What's the point of it? Nobody's doing political theatre in Washington, because nobody wants to see it (except the artists, and maybe Peter Marks, I can't tell)? What a point.

I can think of 20 political plays done in the past few years that your article doesn't even mention, so I'm afraid you can't say it isn't being done. Rorschach's "Bright Room Called Day", ACT's "MacBird", WSC's "Macbett", Longacre Lea's "Cahoot's Macbeth" or "Energumen", Forum's "Hamletmachine", Didactic's "God of Hell", Catalyst's "Someone to Watch over Me", PEDC's "7 Blowjobs" (that the Wash post refused to place paid advertisements for, even though the play was about right wing politicians and hypocritical moralities), Theatre Alliance's kid's show "Haroun and the Sea of Stories" even had corrupt politicians who wish to limit freedom of speech! Any piece of Shakespeare done anywhere in town has broad political themes. Or maybe I don't understand his definition of "political theatre". Can none of the above be included in his definition, even though "Born Yesterday", which was, seemed to be more about love and honesty than Washington in 2006? Does it mean he'd like to see the Capitol Steps take over every theatre in DC? Even if nobody wants to see it? People want to be entertained, and if you slap them in the face with your political broadsides, or you simply preach to the choir (thanks polarized electorate) you aren't giving them anything they can't watch on Fox News or a MoveOn.org ad. It doesn't have to be subtle or historical to be produced, but it helps. Probably for the same reason I burn through the comedies on my netflix list, but the dramas tend to sit in my DVD player until I feel rosy enough to endure "Hotel Rwanda" or "Schindler's List".

Why does he lead off his article with some irrelevant actress begging to do a vanity piece and ponder at length the question of why she can't get this play produced by saying nobody wants political theatre(or her political theatre anyway) when the real answer is tucked into a few neat sentences at the start: Can't get the rights, and theatres can't sell the tickets even if you could.

Is this Mark's call to arms for the local theatres? Or the local audiences? Or washed up actresses that have worn out their welcome in most of the town? Is there a city that tackles political theatre more than this one? Where is this fabled metropolis?

It's probably obvious by now, but I just don't get it.

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