Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Understanding America

I was wrong about Obama winning in Nevada. That shows how unreliable conversations with theatre people tend to be as a litmus paper for public opinion. On the back of the Nevada caucus, Hillary Clinton is now well and truly the front runner. Again. So the electorate, at least in the casino state, has responded to her spin about idealism and rhetoric being no substitute for experience in practical politics and getting things done. The irony of this is that Hillary’s biggest success was probably in the field of idealism and rhetoric (her Beijing speech on gender equality and human rights) and her biggest failure was in practical politics and getting things done (the aborted health care reforms). But America has a short memory.

Bernard Shaw said that we were two countries divided by a common language - and I often feel that the cultural gaps are pretty deep trenches. When I tell Jan about our production of Fool for Love in 1995, she muses as to whether English people could ever really get to grips with Sam Shepard. Isn’t it like Americans trying to do Oscar Wilde? I remember, years ago, sitting with her watching a truly appalling production of The Importance of Being Earnest in Portland, Oregon; and hope to hell that our production didn’t look like that to any American eyes.

In spite of all this, I tend to feel that the outsider’s eye can actually be very acute, and can often see aspects of a culture which those inside it don’t perceive. This trip has been less than a week long, but several people have commented on how the production plans for the Dream seem to suggest a very detailed insight into not just American society, but very specifically Lake Tahoe society. I’m not claiming any prophetic status - it’s simply that theatre itself is a powerful crucible in which social and cultural tensions work themselves out. And this place has plenty of those.

Oh yes - I’ve also discovered that the latest fad in American criticism is something called Green Theory. Eco-crit. Looking at literature through the haze of climate change. You can get a Theory for most things these days, if only you look hard enough.

1 comment:

Jan said...

In response to your musing: no, I don't think Americans "get" Oscar Wilde. Or Noel Coward. Or Alan Ayckbourn, though there are so many of his productions here that apparently we are quite confident that we do.

Now, Shakespeare... That's another matter altogether!