Sep 30, 2011

Sort of a Last Word

Matthew Freeman has perhaps the best response I've seen to the handwringing about the parlous state of American playwriting, from Todd London's Outrageous Fortune to this recent lamentation from Terry Teachout, which postulates that, though playwrights are no longer at the center of the cultural discourse, they probably keep at it because they "meet the nicest people."

Nice try, Terry, if just a little condescending (though I confess that the people, nice and otherwise, are sometimes all that keep me in the theatre journalism racket). As Freeman succinctly puts it, he writes plays
because they are the long-standing, traditional form of art that I've chosen for my medium. Does there need to be further explanation than that? Just because photographs exist, does that mean painters need to explain why they still paint? I do not concede that drama is no longer a part of the cultural conversation. Tony Kushner may not make thousands of dollars from Angels in America...but it's still Angels in America. It's value is immeasurable; it's a permanent part of the American canon. That's work of a value that is expressly disproportional to the amount that he is paid for it...Should poets stop writing poetry just because none of them is Robert Frost? Because the culture has changed? Are poets, in fact, just writing poems because poems are fun to write? No. They are important, and valuable, and necessary.Even the ones you've never heard of. Even the ones you've never read.

Theater is like any art. I honestly am amazed when people ask why it's made.
Amen, Rev. Freeman.

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