Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Velvet Revolution

Yet another political movement that had strong associations with the theatre was the Velvet Revolution which ousted the Communist party from Czechoslovakia. The protesting students and actors in Prague used the Laterna Magika (Magic Lantern Theatre) as their headquarters. Indeed the term Velvet Revolution came from the velvet ropes found in the theatres (like we would find at an American movie theatre. In the end, playwright Vaclav Havel was made the first president of the newly formed Czech Republic.

This is obviously a much scaled down version of events, but the striking of the actors spread from Prague into the provinces and towns like Bratislava, Brno, and Ostrava and ended up an important part of the Revolutions of 1989.

The greater point is that the theater was on the forefront of this change and a rallying point for many people. Please don’t think that I’m advocating the theatres start a similar revolution in this country. But wouldn’t it be great if they were the home for that type of free exchange of ideas. A medium that is willing not only to pose difficult questions but also be the forum where the questions and ideas are debated. Theatre as a form of pure entertainment is not only valid, but necessary. We cannot, however, limit our performance selections to that and of course those important plays are out there shouting their messages. But rather than seeing revival after revival of Rogers and Hammerstein in towns across America, can’t we find a way to explore new stories, new ideas, and also, new entertainment?

Happy Birthday: Caryl Churchill & Sally Benson (1897-1972)

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