Politics and the theater

OpinionJournal posts Terry Teachout’s magazine-length essay: “When drama becomes propaganda.” Teachout’s analysis of the current state of affairs as represented in contemporary theater is guardedly optimistic:

It strikes me that we’ve been living in an age that bears a certain resemblance, aesthetically speaking, to the bad old days of the Popular Front. (Witness the near-hysterical obituary tributes recently paid to Arthur Miller, a second-rate playwright whose leaden style was founded on the simplifications and crudities of Popular Front-style dramaturgy.) And it further strikes me that a growing number of aesthetically sensitive liberals may be growing as tired as did Auden and Isherwood of the various ways in which politics has removed the creative impulse from contemporary art.

The essay includes lots of examples to support both parts of Teachout’s analysis, but I have more confidence in the diagnosis of Popular Front-style dramaturgy than of its exhaustion.
Teachout’s excellent essay is republished from the current issue of what appears to be a worthy magazine that is available online: In Character. The current issue on creativity includes Naomi Schaefer Riley’s interview with Yale Professor David Gelernter. From a quick look, the magazine itself might provide evidence to support Teachout’s optimism regarding a cultural thaw.


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