Monday, December 7, 2009

Does Theatre = The U.S. Senate?

One of the other things driving my current depression is the state of our political affairs. Josh at Tarhearted sums up why pretty well here. The last part really stuck with me all weekend:
Bill Maher has talked about it a lot on his show as well. To paraphrase: maybe America has the governemnt it deserves because when you get right down to it, we're just not a good people, plain and simple.
When I think about the conversations of diversity and such matters, I've been thinking about this piece in the Financial Times by Steven Hill (h/t Matt Yglesias) and what it says about our Senate that it in no way, shape or form represents the electorate, and yet there it is. Not to mention the fact that it's no longer working properly, but, in order to get it working properly, the members need to vote themselves into having less power. Which is never going to happen.

There's something similar between the state of the Senate and the state of our large theatre institutions. They are both, by and large, run by the most conservative portions of our populace, increasingly entrenched and beholden to interests with limited focus and yet constantly tasked with doing "the best thing" for as many people as possible. I may be inflating the importance a bit, but I think the connection holds. And I think it also goes part of the way to the answer to Isaac's question. Can we sue the Senate for not being representative? Theoretically, we all play a part in that, since these are public institutions. I'm not saying that in actuality, our theatres are public institutions and I have a say, but I wonder if the thinking holds true. That, since we're not members or donors, we have no control over it, the way people say if you don't vote, you can't complain. I don't know. Maybe it all breaks down. But I think it's part of it.

Or maybe I'm just equally pissed at the U.S. Senate (and most of our "democratic" institutions right now) as I am at moribund theatres.


Parabasis said...

I don't think theatre equals the US Senate at all. I think your banana republic post was a lot more spot on. We don't elect artistic directors, we have no say in who they are, nor do we have any say who the boards of the theaters are etc.

joshcon80 said...

God, I've become such a nihilist. I'm so hurt and angry that a really nasty part of me doesn't care what happens to America. I kind of hope we all fail.(This must have been how Johnny Rotten felt.)

99 said...

@joshcon - I'm with you on the nihilism front. I was seriously telling a friend of mine that, these days, the best I think we can hope for is that the U.S. collapses before we cause an environmental catastrophe. It's a dark place in my mind these days.

@Parabasis - It's not a perfect metaphor and it's not about the operational or mechanical reality of the situation, I freely admit. It's partly a feel thing, but it does hook up with the banana republic metaphor, because banana republics are inherently un-democratic, but cloak themselves in the trappings of democracy. I think if you took many of the statements made by our senators and swapped out "health care reform" for "diversity" and "taxpayers" or "voters" or "constituents" for "subscribers" or "audience" or "stakeholders," a lot of the arguments would still hold true. Many of the tactics, as well.

I think, when you talk about suing for equal representation, even as a spitballing idea or a conversation starter, the thought of how these institutions see themselves factors in, and I think most theatres do think of themselves as democracies, with the leadership not just hired, but "selected" by the community (I'm not saying that's the truth, but that's the perception). Given that, it's not quite like working for just any company or large corporation. Not that the large question isn't valid, but that it leads into places of self-valuation as well as the reality on the ground.