Political theater drama is perhaps one of the original examples of Ancient Greek theater. In Ancient Greek culture the theater was used for comedies, drama, and for political statements. They viewed political theater as a way to engage their people into social and political issues of the day. It was even used as one method of debate.
Shakespeare wrote of political issues with his plays Macbeth and King Lear. The Shakespeare play Hamlet has a bit of political meaning to it as well, but mainly questions life, death, betrayal, and insanity. Shakespeare is an interesting playwright because of his ability to write about love, death, humor, politics, and various other themes. His political plays and Romeo and Juliet are perhaps his most well known work examples.
In today’s world political plays typically describe big government of corruption and holding back the little guy or of the dangers of giving the government too much power. The debuting NYC play ‘Evening at the Talk House’ is focused on the later. The play by Wallace Shawn is about an autocratic leader who has just come into power. He smart to a point, but inflicts torture and death to those of his country and elsewhere in the world. The play was originally produced in London two years ago, but is having it’s first showing at the end of January in New York.
In light of the recent election of Donald Trump, his hateful campaign rhetoric, and his campaign promises coming to fruition, the actors and writers of the play wonder if they should use drama as a form of protest. Their play has a few similarities to that of Trump as he is insisting torture is a good idea and that he intends to block out other countries.
On the very morning after Trump was elected, the cast of ‘Evening at the Talk House’ gathered to discuss their play and how it will relate to the current government. Wallace Shawn asked his actors: Matthew Broderick, Jill Eikenberry, John Epperson, Larry Pine, Claudia Shear, Michael Tucker, and Annapurna Sriram whether they thought the play was political. To which they agreed. They also discussed how it is important to have pleasant plays and entertainment that gives a feel good vibe. They also see that it is more important than ever to confront the audience with political plays. They see the need to use theater as a form of protest now because audiences are in a lull and need to be shaken up. There will be a negative response they all agreed. They are willing to accept the criticism though. They wondered fleetingly in their conversation if Trump would be influenced by their play. Wallace Shawn concluded the discussion by saying that he would have to literally add Trump’s name to the play to get him to pay attention because he is self-centered ego.
Perhaps the commander in chief’s next tweet at the end of the month will be in outrage at ‘Evening at the Talk House’. Or perhaps he will only notice that they name dropped him and take it as a compliment. The cast of ‘Evening at the Talk House’ will have to wait and see. We will all have to wait and see if their ability to protest with theater will continue under the new leader of the U.S.A. Perhaps he will insist they only create praising stories about him, just as he is demanding the press should do.