What is our role?

As artists and builders what is our role in the current world order with fascism on the agenda for America and across Europe? Do we play our instruments and entertain as the ship sinks or we are marched to the camps?

There are many who do not want to cause trouble they see their role as entertainers and nothing more. They choose to be a distraction from the world’s ills I understand this position laughter can be a great balm in dark times and the need to escape even for two hours is a gift. Unfortunately this has been the thrust of American theatre locally and nationally.

Our national government collectively has never supported the arts with any real enthusiasm since the WPA movement. Now the NEA, a political bowling ball, will cease to be altogether and the US will be one of the few western nations that doesn’t support and encourage the arts as a part of their culture or national identity. This is nothing new we have seen the result in our education system and the toll it has taken, shameful doesn’t come close to describing it.

So what do we build, and to what end?

Build work that provokes, challenges, and above all sparks debate and discussion. We cannot continue to perform to the enlightened we need to entice both sides in and start a discussion. We need to make the work relevant to today’s world, even when we are reflecting something from the past. How do we draw the similarities and point them out to our audiences with out bashing them over the head with it?

This is our job.


Here are some suggestions of works that can be brought forward with clear parallels made


Blitzstein’s The Cradle Will Rock

Behan’s The Hostage

Miller’s All my Sons and of-course the Crucible

Ibsen’s   The Enemy of the People

David Hare’s Plenty, Stuff Happens, The Absence of War, A Map of the World

Kushner’s Homebody Kabul, Angels in America

Rickman/Viner My Name is Rachel Corrie

Akhtar’s Disgraced

Brant’s Grounded


Build new work that touches local history, or the community around you and how it has changed. What are the biggest issues facing the community you live in and how can you bring them forward onto the stage? Be thoughtful don’t just show one side or bias the work to “send a message” use the work to provoke debate and engagement. The idea that we can do nothing is the first and largest hurdle we all face.


Lisa Drostova a former Butterfield 8 company member and fellow maker has this to say,


Political Theatre Today – Theatre Bay Area




The Guardian has several articles on where theatre stands today


Political theatre | Stage | The Guardian



The way we make now is vital, how we engage with the work and each other. Yelling at one an other gets us no where we have to listen to each other even when what the other is saying repels us we have to listen and discern what is at the heart of their argument, and address that. Above all go out and make some art and most of all make some trouble.



1 Response to “What is our role?”

  1. February 9, 2017 at 2:56 am

    Absolutely! This is why, last year, my theater company The Seeing Place produced readings of “1984” and “After The Revolution” and did MainStage productions of “Rhinoceros” and “Macbeth” – we’re now trying to prep for this year’s offerings and have already considered some of the plays on your list. Thank you for keeping the conversation going…

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