UPDATE: July 24, 2017--I forgot that I published this article about PBS attacking Steve Bannon earlier, shameful of GOP to reward PBS for doing it, imho: https://laurencejarvikonline.blogspot.com/2016/11/public-broadcasting-v-steve-bannon.html
UPDATE: July 21, 2017--Incredibly, House & Senate Republicans apparently are not significantly cutting NEA appropriations after NEA-funded venues agitated for assassination of President Trump, among other things, according to today's press reports. Makes no sense as prior Congresses passed big cuts and felt no penalty at the ballot box. In addition, in my opinion every penny given to NEA, NEH, PBS, NPR & Pacifica is used to oppose, defeat, undermine, and discredit the GOP. Why would a political party in its right mind fund its own opposition? Have Republican Senators & Congressmen never heard the saying: "The Pen is Mightier than the Sword?" Finally, it depresses support from those who see politicians breaking an easy to fulfill, no-brainer, low-cost campaign promise--VERY BAD LEGISLATION!
"Yes, I was a card-carrying Communist. I was a member of the party until Peggy and I got married, and she convinced me that it was stupid to belong any longer."
"...and in 1958 he was hauled before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, where he denied being a Communist after 1955. (He refused to discuss his activities before that time.)"
-- Kenneth Turan, FREE FOR ALL: JOE PAPP, THE PUBLIC, AND THE GREATEST THEATER STORY EVER TOLD
It cannot come as a surprise that the latest controversy over artistic politics has taken place at New York's Delacorte Theater, where a Shakespeare in the Park production recently featured a Donald Trump look-alike being graphically stabbed to death. For Shakespeare in the Park is produced by New York's Public Theater, which was founded by Joseph Papp, who never abandoned his political commitment to Leftist politics, a theatrical tradition continued by current artistic director Oskar Eustis.
Thus, a published statement about the controversy rings as hollow as a speech by Polonius, especially since the company had audience member Laura Loomer arrested for expressing her dissent in truly Shakespearean fashion, by heckling a performance, long a tradition in theatre, as The Guardian has noted:
Prior to the 19th century, though, heckling was as much part of the theatregoing experience as it is in standup comedy today. Audiences in Shakespeare's day would have been vocal in their pleasure (and displeasure), while Drury Lane audiences in the 18th century were perfectly capable of hissing actors they didn't like off the stage. Despite the regular complaints of disruptive mobile phones and audiences who text or talk their through shows, no 21st-century British theatre audience would boo for 10 minutes, as people did after the premiere of Noël Coward's Sirocco in 1927.
And heckling was a normal part of theater-going in Elizabethan London, according to experts:
Shakespeare's audience was far more boisterous than are patrons of the theatre today. They were loud and hot-tempered and as interested in the happenings off stage as on. One of Shakespeare's contemporaries noted that "you will see such heaving and shoving, such itching and shouldering to sit by the women, such care for their garments that they be not trod on . . . such toying, such smiling, such winking, such manning them home ... that it is a right comedy to mark their behaviour" (Stephen Gosson, The School of Abuse, 1579). The nasty hecklers and gangs of riffraff would come from seedy parts in and around London like Tower-hill and Limehouse and Shakespeare made sure to point them out:
These are the youths that thunder at a playhouse,However, instead of incorporating Loomer's heckling into the performance and making it part of the discourse, perhaps responding with theatrical ad-libs, Eustis brought the "discussion" to an end in a decidedly Stalinist manner, by having Loomer arrested and taken to the Central Park Jail.
and fight for bitten apples; that no audience, but
the Tribulation of Tower-hill, or the Limbs of
Limehouse, their dear brothers, are able to endure.
(Henry VIII, 5.4)
Somehow, that doesn't seem in keeping with Hamlet's own instructions to his players:
Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature. For anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing...
(Hamlet, 3.2)Yet, like Stalin himself assuring Westerners that all was well in the former Soviet Union, Eustis claimed to welcome discussion rhetorically, while simultaneously suppressing it by his actions:
Just as one doesn't need to be a Weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing, one doesn't need to be a theatre critic in order to recognize a Politically Correct production, especially since director Eustis also produced Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton at the Public Theater, comparing him to Shakespeare:
Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton cast heckled the audience, when they hectored and bullied Vice President Mike Pence from the stage when he was sitting quietly in his seat, with an actor delivering a Soviet-style denunciation of a Politically Incorrect member of the public who dared to attend the show:
Like Eustis said, "those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic means pay a terrible price and destroy the very thing they are fighting to save." In time, perhaps Eustis may come to regret his bloody dispatch of the theatrical Trump in his Shakespeare in the Park's production of Julius Caesar. As the Bard prophesied:
Bloody thou art; bloody will be thy end. (Richard III, 4.4)Shakespearean struggles have taken a toll on cultural institutions before, in New York City, in Manhattan, on Astor Place, once upon a time site of the fabled Astor Place Opera House--now gone forever as a result of the Astor Place Riot of May 10, 1849.
That conflict over the politics of Shakespeare left some 25 dead and over 100 wounded, and led to the closing of what became known the "Massacre Opera House" on "DisAstor Place"--the street Oskar Eustis's Public Theater now calls home.
In conclusion, Eustis might note that The Corcoran Gallery of Art is no more, perhaps because of the undemocratic way it handled the1990s controversy over Robert Mapplethorpe's photos and Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ." The Corcoran was dissolved in 2014, although its building was worth some $200 million and its art collection valued at $2 billion. If Eustis, Shakespeare in the Park, and the cast of Hamilton continue their efforts to undo the election results of 2016, New York's Public Theater might share the same fate as The Corcoran. For, as Shakespeare pointed out,:
What's past is prologue. (The Tempest, 2.1)