Friday, June 7, 2013

A Fly On The Wall, June 7, 2013

Pride and Prejudice
by Jim Murchison 

What is the theatre’s responsibility to the community and to reflecting on or advancing social values? My thought has always been that the first thing that theatre has to do is to entertain, but there are so many ways it can do that. Some theatre is pure escapism. It is simply funny scary or erotic and there is nothing wrong with that.

There are times when theatre purports to stand for something or make a commitment and it should be surefooted in its decision on how it presents its opinion. It is very easy to get emotional and defensive when someone feels you failed in your attempt. One of the things that modern media allows us to do more freely than ever before is have a dialogue and exchange of ideas more swiftly than ever before and The Charlebois Post certainly has had many spirited dialogues about boundaries on its pages. These discussions have been equally about expanding them but also attaching responsible limits to what we say and do. 

It is a tightrope to present something provocative and interesting that sometimes poses unpopular questions and also have a viewpoint that is responsible. I expressed an opinion in my review of Carousel that it portrayed battery of women in a whitewashed light. I understand that there are some that believe The Taming of The Shrew does something very similar with mental abuse, so why was I involved in that? It is a valid question.

The fact that Shrew's entire production team was made up of women and the director has been an activist for women’s rights helps. I felt that the play is tongue in cheek and very broad comedy. The best comedy pushes boundaries and makes fun of the social structure of its time. I didn’t feel it seriously advocated or endorsed training or brainwashing women any more than The Imaginary Invalid promotes hypochondria. So that was my justification. There are some people that believe The Taming of The Shrew and other Shakespearean plays should not be produced for the same reasons I feel Carousel was a bad choice for the Orpheus season.

Gaëtan Charlebois asks similar questions about the role of critics in this week’s op ed. There is a wavering line and we have to get to the edge of it. We have to challenge and probe, but we have to do our level best not to go over that line and maintain respect for the effort put into creating something that will move or inform the soul and the mind. Ultimately some will think we cross that line, and they may be right. It is far and away better than never asking the questions and burying your ideas in preconceived notions founded on historical bias, sense of entitlement or a paranoid fear of things you don’t understand.

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