Most contemporary plays are very essayistic like this; given the homogeneity of the typical theater artist and audience, we know that a play that starts off about war will have something bad to say about it, that a play that engages with gay issues will be pro-gay. (Someone please name me the last big pro-war or anti-gay play you saw professionally produced.) In this typology, the “narrative,” which is essentially the entire play being produced, exists to narrate a series of points that makes the predictable ending impactful, which we charitably still refer to as catharsis.
I'm getting the weirdest sense of deja vu.
I'm having a bit of trouble understanding what is meant by political. I can't really separate politics from aesthetics because politics has a huge influence on aesthetics. How we define good, beautiful, and true has a lot to do with who holds systemic power.
I can agree that sometimes what we call political theatre can be simplistic and preachy, but that has more to do with the fact that it's simplistic and preachy and not that it's overtly political. It's one reason why I can no longer stomach Tyler Perry's work.
I can understand the limitations of constructing a fictional reality around a specific point of view. But what I'm finding it hard to understand is why it's a problem for artists to claim their own subjectivity, such as Josh does for MilkMilkLemonade or what I do for Tulpa, or Anne&Me.
But Joshua Conkel makes a good point when he responds:
I see his point, but I also resent it a little. I might have written a pro-gay play in MilkMilkLemonade, for example, and I'm sure people know straight away that it's a pro-gay play. That said, I don't think anybody knows from the start of the play exactly WHAT I'm going to say about gayness or HOW exactly I'm going to get there. Just because you know a play will be pro gay before you watch it, doesn't mean that it's pro gayness is a spoiler alert. You still have no idea specifically what the playwright is going to say on the subject or how he/she will take you there.
What I see happening in the Barker quote seems to minimize and devalue such work as being "merely" about issues. It's a very insidious form of erasure. Like Josh, I do find it a tad insulting because it positions the struggles that affect our lives as something inconsequential (or rather, inconsequential compared to its entertainment or aesthetic value). Just as the personal is political, the political is also personal. And since art is, at least initially, very personal, I cannot separate my personal self from my political self from my artistic self. I simply don't have the luxury.
The irony of this sentiment, of course, is that the very people who see themselves as separate from and immune to certain kinds of narratives (and political ones at that - ie, who deserves to be in power) are the ones who consume, benefit from, and perpetuate limited narratives themselves. When a story comes from one's experiences as a woman, a person of color, and/or a queer person (to name but a few things), it's pushing an agenda; it's too political; it's not something people can relate to. Yet somehow, I'm supposed to understand the trials and struggles of the King of England or the founder of Facebook as a universal human experience.
Um, OK. If you say so.
ETA: Barker responded while I was posting this.