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Handouts and Histrionics

Article V: Rants and Revolutions


"My great hope is that the future of American art lies with those who accept responsibility for the success or failure of their ideas."


"And what about the recent tax Euripides
persuaded us to impose? He promised us
That two and a half percent would yield the state
five hundred talents at the least; so we
wanted one and all to gild the man
in flaming gold from head to food, until
we started doing the arithmetic
and found the scheme a dunce's palace of clouds
gone when the wind unpicks the mortised sun.
And then we all wanted to tar Euripides!"

-Aristophanes, Women in Congress (translation by Jack Lindsay)

God damn, I love Aristophanes. That play was first produced for an (ironically state-sponsored) Dionysian Festival, three hundred and ninety-two years before the traditional birth of Christ. That's two thousand, two hundred and forty years before the publication of the Communist Manifesto, for those of you counting. He's the oldest surviving political comic, and thus in many respects the solemn grandfather of our noble profession. And if you think that sounds like bullshit, well, he'd almost certainly agree.

My point is, dis shit be old, yo. Arguments about the strange intersection of art, politics, and money date back to the invention of the freakin' comic monologue. But we have something else in common with Aristophanes, too: that we, like him, are the citizens of a democracy, conscious of our power to exercise choice upon our destinies. We have an opportunity to shape a legacy of American theatre for the generation that comes after us.

My great hope is that the future of American art lies with those who accept responsibility for the success or failure of their ideas. And there is hope: after all, we live in an age where a stand-up comedian can reach more people in five minutes than Paul of Tarsus did in his lifetime. Part of the reason I chose a career in the arts, rather than politics, is because I believe that politics are downstream from culture, and that television shows like South Park have done more to stimulate political discourse than Ayn Rand's entire body of work. We have the unique power to put a human face on an ideology.

Even more than that, we have the power of choice. To survive on money redistributed by threat of force -- in effect, by robbing others of their ability to choose what art to support -- isn't the legacy I want to leave. Times are scary with the economic downturn, and the manufacturers of luxury items -- because, yes, that is what we are -- are the first to get hit when belts get tightened. But we will survive. We've survived worse. The impulse to create things, and to witness the act of creation, is one that just can't seem to get stamped out of our species, despite many attempts throughout our history. Hell, we might even thrive. Who knows? Necessity is the mother of invention, after all. We're creative types.

Let's invent.