Dumbocracy in America: Studies in the Theatre of Guilt, 1987-1994

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9781566630986: Dumbocracy in America: Studies in the Theatre of Guilt, 1987-1994
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No theatre critic in America is more informed by ideas than Robert Brustein, and no critic does a better job of relating theatre to the larger culture. In this new collection of essays, reviews, and profiles (some of them appearing here for the first time), Mr. Brustein uses the prism of the American theatre to explore the motivating impulses behind rampant political correctness. "Art and politics belong in separate compartments," he writes. "Creative activity is almost invariably diminished when it is politicized." He laments the prevailing belief that the critical function of drama is to arouse the guilt of its audience; he abhors the efforts of multiculturalists to discredit other groups in order to validate their own existence. Ranging widely over the American cultural landscape, Mr. Brustein considers government efforts to regulate the arts; the rosy retrospectives of American radicalism; and the undue influence of the New York Times, and offers his intelligent and clear-eyed assessments of the theatre's productions and people that have been notable—and sometimes notorious—over recent years. As always, he is both a pleasure to read and a cultural education.

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About the Author:

Robert Brustein, theatre critic for the New Republic and is the author of Cultural Calisthenics, Reimagining American Theatre, The Theatre of Revolt, and The Siege of the Arts. He is also founder and artistic director of the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard University.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A clever title for what is essentially a grab-bag collection of think pieces, reviews, and profiles by the founder of the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard and drama critic for The New Republic. Brustein (Who Needs Theatre, 1987, etc.) is a sheep in wolf's clothing. He attacks causes like multiculturalism and political correctness, but hiding beneath his tough-guy, Bill Buckley exterior is a squishy, liberal heart of gold. He fears that multiculturalism in the theater is ``turning [it] into an area of entitlement rather than a place for art.'' He faults message-plays (what he calls ``the theatre of guilt'') because ``the artist [is] not in a position to chastise others before exploring the darkness in his own soul.'' He is a classicist in drama, preferring plays in which the characters discover that (to paraphrase Shakespeare) the fault lies in themselves, not in the stars. But his taste in the theater is fairly broad: Anyone who can find common ground between the one-woman shows of sociologist/cultural critic Anna DeVeare Smith and acerbic comedian Jackie Mason can't be all bad. Brustein is also a canny critic of what motivates both theater creators and theatergoers. Of Peter Brook's lengthy production of the Mahabharata, he writes that the director seemed intent on transforming ``well-padded bourgeois theatergoers into butt-weary acolytes of arcane Eastern mysteries.'' And Brustein is capable of turning his keen eye on more mundane affairs, writing a searing account of the Clarence Thomas hearings as high-camp theater, categorizing the roles of the unwitting senators: Alan Simpson as ``Mr. Nasty Badman''; Arlen Specter as the ``remorseless small-town prosecutor''; and Joseph Biden as unable to ``even manage a coherent line of dialogue.'' To-the-point essays on the role of drama in America and, indirectly, the life and health of the arts. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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9781566630603: Dumbocracy in America: Studies in the Theatre of Guilt, 1987-1994

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ISBN 10:  1566630606 ISBN 13:  9781566630603
Publisher: Ivan R. Dee, 1994
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