How is the weather relevant?
In the light of America’s regime change, playwrights and theaters are inevitably asking themselves, “How is what I am doing relevant?”
How is this play relevant?
How is this season programming relevant?
How is buying holiday gifts relevant?
How is taking a bath relevant?
How is this toothbrush relevant?
This chair. Relevant, or not?
How is going about my day relevant?
Awareness of The Thing is, naturally, already finding its way into my post-election writing, and I’m sure it will continue to do so in many guises.
I am thinking about it constantly and yet, I do not believe every second in our heads should become about The Thing. I also will get bored if every American theater programs Rhinoceros. Although then I suppose I can write a play called “100 Productions of Rhinoceros,” satirizing our times.
The Thing is so intrusive. The Thing is a constantly blundering fool. The Thing is a master of distraction. How to address The Thing without letting it shrink the landscape of our minds?
In Victorian and Edwardian days, the theatre had curtain raisers. Programming would include short pieces at the beginning of the evening, or sometimes after pieces following the main event.
Why not bring this back?
It would allow theaters and writers the ability to respond swiftly to our political situation in the face of ever-shifting circumstances.
It would expand civil discourse.
It could spark debate and engagement.
It might even lead to greater understanding.
It could get your patrons talking to each other.
You could program voices you don’t necessarily agree with.
Even if you have already programmed your entire season, you could still make this change.
It could be a way to celebrate the voices of emerging playwrights whom you’re not quite ready to program but whom you fanatically adore.
Emerging directors, too.
It could spark ideas for plays to commission and develop in depth over the next season.
You could program international writers, because what is happening to us is happening in a larger context and it is easy to miss that fact. One of the weaknesses of American theatre is our paucity of exchange with other countries.
It could be a way to expand the breadth of voices that get heard in the theater.
It could be a way to defend artistic freedom and freedom of dissent.
It could be really fun.
I have programmed a sum total of zero seasons in my life. I speak only as a concerned citizen and writer.