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What To Do When Political Theatre Becomes Old News, or, Clowns Ruin Everything

This past Sunday I grabbed some much-needed last-minute tickets to the highly-renowed American Repertory Theater to see the Abbey Theatre’s production of The Plow and the Stars. I regretted not having the opportunity to see a production of theirs during my visit in Dublin, and looked forward to making up for lost time.

Although no dramaturg was officially a part of this production, the production notes provided by Dr. Catherine McKenna of Harvard University’s Department of Celtic Languages and Literature are superb, with a comprehensive overview and timeline of the Easter Rising, which can be accessed here. The lobby was adorned with visual timelines and photographic collages of life in Ireland during that time, which audiences diligently viewed, wine glass in hand, during the intermission.

Rather than join in on the intellectual festivities, I admittedly scrolled through my phone. Every clickbait article addressed the Donald Trump sex tape scandal, the Donald Trump Miss Universe scandal, and the increase in clowns that are pervading our wooded areas at night. That’s right, clowns. Welcome to 2016, where clowns who live in the woods are a real threat and a man who shot for Playboy is a presidential candidate.

So why then, in lieu of everything happening in this country, why perform this play at this time? How do the events of the Easter Rising speak to what is happening around us? Is it necessary for a production to do so?

I am not trying to put down what happened in Ireland, nor am I trying to reprimand the A.R.T. for putting up this production. What I am rather wondering is how a piece like this is expected to speak to our current events, or whether it is expected to at all.

I want to have an evening where I don’t have to think about the fact that we have a shriveled foreskin for a presidential candidate. I want to have an evening where I don’t have to think about the fact that my biggest nightmare as a child regarding clowns running wild through the woods is coming true. But if a production attempts to do that by offering an alternative piece of political theatre, maybe we have to address the elephant (or at this rate the entire circus) in the room before we allow ourselves to enter another political sphere.

I’m not saying I’m happy about this. But when one is living in a year such as 2016, it’s damn near impossible to imagine living anywhere else, even if it’s just for a few hours time.

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