Monday, February 20, 2017

Theater As A Force For Good

This article about the Ghostlight Project, an effort by members of the theater community across the country to band together and speak out about issues affecting both theater and the nation, and this one about the restoration of the Hudson Theater in New York are inspirations to me in the context of all three of my careers:  an attorney, an actor/aspiring producer, and a historic preservationist.

My lifelong interest in theater, for which I have my mother and her late sister (my aunt) to thank, has as much to do with theater as a force for social good as with theater as an artistic medium. Perhaps that partly reflects my father's influence, given his interest in politics.  At any rate, to me, a theater that has no consequences (good ones) for the culture around it is no theater at all. Fortunately, in spite of the fractured nature of American culture, our theater has had tremendous consequences for our culture, especially in the area of tolerance, whether it does with the aspirations of an African-American family ("A Raisin in the Sun") or young people dealing with their sexual orientation ("Falsettos").

I have often read critics who wished out loud for a National Theater such as the one Great Britain has.  Of course, Great Britain has was it has because it has a more unified culture.  But even as the culture of the UK breaks down and leads its people to turn inward, the role of the NT is currently a subject of heated debate.  Perhaps, in its own way, the Ghostlight Project is as close to a National Theater as the U.S. can get.

As for the Hudson, I rejoice in having yet another example of celebrating a building whose existence, design, and history of productions tells us so much about where we have been, as well as where we are going.  It's not an accident that historic preservation actually increases the value of adjacent properties, instead (as some might suspect) of having the opposite effect.

It's a miracle that, in a highly technological age, that theater survives at all; it's even a greater miracle that it is actually flourishing.  I know of no greater testimony to its value than that fact. May we continue to do all that we can to support it, so that it may flourish forever.

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