Posts Tagged ‘theater’


Oskar Eustis is the artistic director of The Public Theatre, where Hamilton had its Off-Broadway début in 2015.

According to Eustis, in an interview with David Remnick,

There’s a fundamental principle underneath Marxism that I believe in, which is: the critique of capitalism is that it is the individual appropriation of collective creation.

It’s well worth listening to the rest of the interview for Eustis’s discussion of other ways his Marxism affects how he thinks about culture, theater, and much else.

And while we’re on the topic, here’s a link to Christian Parenti’s essay on reading Hamilton—against Jefferson—from the Left.

In the American political imagination, Jefferson is rural, idealistic, and democratic, while Hamilton is urban, pessimistic, and authoritarian. So, too, on the US left, where Jefferson gets the better billing. Michael Hardt recently edited a sheaf of Jefferson’s writings for the left publisher Verso.

Reading “Jefferson beyond Jefferson,” Hardt casts him as a theorist of “revolutionary transition.” We like Jefferson’s stirring words about “the tree of liberty” occasionally needing “the blood of patriots and tyrants,” and his worldview fits comfortably with a “small is beautiful” style localism. We recall Jefferson as a great democrat. When Tea Partiers echo his rhetoric, we dismiss it as a lamentable misunderstanding.

But in reality, Jefferson represented the most backward and fundamentally reactionary sector of the economy: large, patrimonial, slave-owning, agrarian elites who exported primary commodities and imported finished manufactured goods from Europe. He was a fabulously wealthy planter who lived in luxury paid for by slave labor. Worse yet, he raised slaves specifically for sale. . .

Hamilton was alone among the “founding fathers” in understanding that the world was witnessing two revolutions simultaneously. One was the political transformation, embodied in the rise of republican government. The other was the economic rise of modern capitalism, with its globalizing networks of production, trade, and finance. Hamilton grasped the epochal importance of applied science and machinery as forces of production.

In the face of these changes, Hamilton created (and largely executed) a plan for government-led economic development along lines that would be followed in more recent times by many countries (particularly in East Asia) that have undergone rapid industrialization. His political mission was to create a state that could facilitate, encourage, and guide the process of economic change — a policy also known as dirigisme, although the expression never entered the American political lexicon the way its antonym, laissez-faire, did.

To be sure, Hamilton was living in the era of “bourgeois” revolutions and the state he was building was a capitalist state, complete with the oppressive apparatus that always involves. Hamilton did not oppose exploitation. Like most people of his age, he saw child labor as normal and defended the rights of creditors over debtors. But regarding slavery, he firmly and consistently opposed it and was a founder of the Society for Manumission of Slaves. It was Hamilton — not Jefferson — who had the more progressive vision.


“Invisible Hand” during the Bread and Puppet Theater Circus and Pageant (10 August 2014)

And later the same afternoon: “Fire, Emergency Performance for Gaza” :



We taught “The Cradle Will Rock,” a superb musical by Marc Blitzstein (no, not the 1980 Van Halen song) and a WPA project, in our course A Tale of Two Great Depressions this past spring. It wasn’t the students’ favorite section of the course (some students simply don’t like musicals, others didn’t like this particular musical, and the politics of the play were difficult for most of them). But we’ll teach it again the next time we offer the course because it is such an important example of the cultural representations in and of the First Great Depression.

Is it any surprise it’s being revived at the New York City Center in the midst of the Second Great Depression?

Here are the lyrics for the final scene from the original 1936 script:

That’s thunder, that’s lightning,
And it’s going to surround you.
No wonder those storm birds
Seem to circle around you…
Well, you can climb down, and you can’t sit still;
That’s a storm that’s going to last until
The final wind blows…and when the wind blow…
The cradle will rock.

Here’s another song from the 1964 Off Broadway production:


You have to admit: in the midst of capitalist crises, folks can get pretty creative.

Consider a municipal theater [ht: sm] in Bescanó, a Catalan village, which has found a way of avoiding the increase in value-added taxes imposed by the Spanish government:

sell carrots in lieu of entrance tickets.

Carrots are among the staple foods exempt from the tax increase, so the Bescanó theater is selling them for 13 to 15 euros each, or $17 to $19. Each carrot entitles the bearer to see a play in November.

Quim Marcé, director of the Bescanó theater, said: “The theater world was already in very bad shape, but this tax increase will basically kill off small theaters like ours. We’re perhaps pioneers, but I really think that other theaters will have to follow our example and find ways around this unsustainable tax.”


If it weren’t such a glorious summer day here on the mountain, I’d be reading and writing about a variety of things, such as. . .

The success of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” in ConDem England.

The Hegelian fundamentalism of Slavoj Žižek.

How “states built on exploitation inevitably fail”—including the kinds of exploitation Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson don’t want to talk about.

How the Wall Street mafia holds America hostage.

How difficult it is to dramatize the Second Great Depression in novels.*

But it’s summertime and, at least for today, the livin’ is easy. . .

*Although I’ve decided to teach Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis next spring.

Man = Carrot Circus

Posted: 30 July 2011 in Uncategorized
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Tomorrow, we’re headed to Glover, to see Bread and Puppet: Cheap and Political Theater in Vermont

Yes men

Posted: 9 February 2010 in Uncategorized
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If you’re in London, you should catch The Power of Yes, David Hare’s latest being staged at the National Theatre.

That’s the view of Colin Murhpy in Le Monde Diplomatique.

For a play about finance, it’s witty, accessible and presented with a breezy touch. As The Permanent Way [Hare’s 2003 play about the privatization of British Rail] was “a play about grief”, this is a play about arrogance.

But, according to Murply, it’s not really a play, or it doesn’t work like a play. So, what is it?

But perhaps the question, what is it?, is the wrong question. Perhaps the question should be: what does it do? To that, the answer is more straightforward, and more satisfying. The Power of Yes provides a densely layered, but intellectually accessible, insight into the origins and effects of the global financial crisis. It does so in the invigorating surrounds of a packed theatre, where the audience is perhaps communally more receptive to its political insights than if they were sitting at home, as isolated consumers, on the couch. It does so using the comforting conventions of the stage, with bright lights focusing our attention readily on the protagonists, and actors providing representations of real people that are larger, more presentable, and hence more digestible than real people ever are on stage. It does so for an audience that has paid and travelled to be here, and listens with an acute ear. . .

The Power of Yes may not be a play, and perhaps the material would more obviously make for a powerful article. But in the hands of David Hare, a playwright, it is well-marshalled rhetoric. At the end of the day, there’s something surprisingly theatrical about that.

Hopefully, it will make it to this side of the pond. And soon. . .