As I write this it has not been decided who will be the next President of the United States.
It has been a long campaign season…well, it’s been a long year in many ways.
Theater is such a wonderful way to escape my everyday problems. I’m sad that the lessons from theater and entertainment aren’t available to us right now. But I find myself thinking about it anyway.
Politics and Theater? It all makes me think about Julius Caesar. (Yes. I’m that much of a theater geek….Oh, you thought I was talking about history?? Well, hang on.) It seems there was a recent production that styled their Caesar after a recent President. It began making political waves. Is this a shock? No. Theater has always been political. In fact, almost every play engages with the politics of its time in some way.
Here are a few political plays and musicals to put on your watch list.
1. Mary Stuart (1800) by Friedrich Schiller
I love Elizabethan history. I am so thankful that we live in a time that you don’t get your head cut off just for being on the wrong side of an argument!
No one understood better than Schiller the devious ways of politics. At first glance one could be fooled that this is simply a romantic tragedy about two warring queens, Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart. The most famous scene; however, shows Elizabeth beset by contradictory arguments about Mary’s fate. Should she be beheaded? Should she be forgiven and banished or should she live under the threat of…well…the axe?
2. The Crucible (1953) by Arthur Miller
Did you know that Miller’s historical drama about the Salem witch trials of 1692 was inspired by Senator Joe McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee and its persecution of suspected communists? Like most plays, the deep meanings are not the ones simple to find. Set in 1692, inspired by events of 1938, and yet the plot of this play can resonate with us today. It is about a community plagued by guilt, suspicion and fear. What is truth?
3. Richard III by William Shakespeare
I did just mention Julius Caesar, but if you want a Shakespeare play that really makes you think of dirty politics try this one. Shakespeare’s Richard is most likely more of a despicable tyrant than the historical Richard was, but the story of his rise to power is very much the story of a dangerous, charismatic man seizing power from people who refuse to take him seriously.
4. 1776 by Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone. The show is based on the events leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, telling a story of the efforts of John Adams to persuade his colleagues to vote for American independence and to sign the document.
5. Of Thee I Sing by George and Ira Gershwin
This musical lampoons American politics; the story concerns John P. Wintergreen, who runs for President of the United States on the “love” platform. When he falls in love with the sensible Mary Turner instead of Diana Devereaux, the beautiful pageant winner selected for him, he gets into political hot water.
6. Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Do I really need to say anything else? Read here for more of my Hamilton thoughts. https://fromthewings.org/2020/07/03/freedom-and-hamilton-and-what-we-can-learn-from-both/
Politics. Not something I love or enjoy. I don’t think it brings out the best in anyone. Sadly, I don’t think we can escape politics. Perhaps in this moment you think that the election is over and we don’t have to deal with ads or debates or news media twisting the facts and that may be true in that arena. However, politics exists in every area of our lives. We deal with dishonesty, corruption, lies, slander, backbiting, climbing to get to the top and much more in our workplace, with friends and sadly even the church. So, what do we do?
1) Laugh long and often. Even at yourself.
2) Remember the words to the old chorus:
“This world is not my home I’m just a passin’ through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.” Keep your eyes on the prize.
3) Hold yourself to a higher standard. Remember, we are all sinners. Worship our God not men.
4) God will hold you fast. Rest in that.
5) Watch plays and musicals. Trust me.
Have you watched a political play that I’ve forgotten? What do you think of the ones I’ve listed here?
Until next time! This is just me talking to you….From the wings.