I have been long impressed by the relationship between theater and politics, and am impressed once again in considering the posts and discussion at DC this week. Theater is the art form, according to Hannah Arendt, that most closely resembles politics, and as such it can be of great political significance, for better and for worse.
I have based my intellectual career on this. Theater opened Polish society to major changes, and in the process, it changed my life. It presented alternative visions; it constituted an alternative space, for the Poles and also for me.
The theatricality of public events, particularly when televised as a “media event,” can at least momentarily express the solidarity of a nation state, as was evident to the British this week in the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, real not only for British subjects, but as well for the global audience.
But the relationship is not always a happy one, as events of this week and our discussions at DC show. Theater, broadly understood, especially bad, base theatrical entertainments, can present fundamental challenges to democratic life. Rafael Narvaez examined this in his post. Kitsch entertainment created junk politics in Peru. Like junk food, it provides its immediate pleasures, as Lisa pointed out in her response to Narvaez. But it can also have quite serious negative consequences. In Peru, it was implicated in the political culture of corruption. And perhaps it’s not surprising that the role model of the Peruvian exotic dancer turned politician, Suzy Diaz, was Cicciolina, the porn star turned parliamentarian in Italy, the European country that also has been marked by corrupt anti-democratic politics. Of course, these entertaining figures do not cause the corruption, but are manifestations of it.
Matters are in a way worse in the U.S. The reality show star Donald Trump, who . . .
Read more: DC Week in Review: Theater and Politics