Although not necessarily about a specific current event, I stumbled across this editorial that spoke about the intersections between arts and politics. Quick to note out the current politically charged atmosphere, Becker, the author, emphasized the power of the artist as an agent of socio-political change. Confronted with the reality of both the grueling and demanding work in the theatre and the ‘politically charged atmosphere’ of this election season, I found that I genuinely resonated with this article.
Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, discreetly under the desk – the nice desks in the building with the marble floors, real marble floors – of a classroom on the finer side of my college campus, I came across a post that hasn’t left my mind. It went something along the lines of ‘Consider this: Most of Donald Trump’s campaign has expressed xenophobic, homophobic, racist, Islamophobic, misogynistic etc. sentiments YET he’s doing quite well in the polls.’ Riddle me this?!?! (Merely a gal’s way of asking: How the HELL is he faring so well by riding on such hateful sentiments?)
As a young Latina, I can’t even begin to count the number of times that I’ve felt disenfranchised and alienated in this country, my birthplace, but within this ‘politically charged atmosphere’ as Becker so lightly puts it, for the first time, I’ve begun to feel fear. The kind of fear that’s crippling and manifests itself as anger and frustration that stagnates any kind of growth, whether personal or artistic. Too often, ‘reveling in the creative process’ and ‘prancing around on stage’ seems silly in the face of such a charged atmosphere not only within my country but around the world. I find myself questioning the worth of my chosen field of study, wondering how my dedication to the arts could be better allocated in a path that more directly affects the issues that preoccupy my mind. Why bother with art?
As if directly attempting to engage me and contest my fear, Becker mockingly points out the importance of his craft and the power it holds through a short anecdote: “I recently taught a playwriting class to teenagers, and found that many of their plays were written from the extreme right and left perspectives. These young writers were clearly preaching to their own choirs. When we discussed the importance of nuanced, fully developed characters, though, and the writers came back with second drafts, the plays became far more compelling and may have even fostered—gasp—greater understanding.” Nuanced, fully developed characters and the understanding of their power within a theatrical piece worked to create understanding within these students Becker was teaching that provides an obvious reminder for why I’m still waking up at 6AM knowing very well that rehearsal will continue until 11PM at night. As cliché and obvious as Becker’s remind seems, I find that it becomes ever so difficult to remember amidst the work, that the work serves a purpose beyond myself; that not creating, that not working only makes me an artist that has been ‘Trumped by the artless.’