Middle Class, White Reactionaries | Theatre and the Emerging Church

There was a superb interview with Edward Albee tonight on the radio which is well worth a download (for this week at least). Superb not for fluid questioning and erudite follow ups, but for genuine engagement.

A couple of weeks ago I gave a school assembly on ‘how to write a book’ (small pond, education, they’re easily impressed 😉 and one of the points I made was that I believed that one writes not to reveal, but to discover, a sentiment mirrored by Albee when pressed about the roots of his plays. “I write my plays to find out why I’m writing them” was his wonderful reply.

Later in the interview he voiced some concerns I have had on recent theatre visits: the economics of theatre are disgusting. The cost of tickets and costs of productions are driving it into the long grass, where only the “well-stuffed, over-comfortable, upper-middle-class, white, middle-aged reactionaries” can afford to be entertained. A great example was Tom Stoppard’s play Rock ‘n’ Roll. The writing was fabulous, the ideas brilliant. But, given this was a play about revolution, about political injustice and oppression, the backing track was shameful. It was virtually all Pink Floyd, the ultimate musical expression of Albee’s caricatured audience.

Between each act a screen came down and music was played (shockingly loudly, I couldn’t hear myself think, muttered one buffer in the interval about the faint PA) – and the track details were shown on the screen in animated graphics that would have had the entire Vaux cemetery turning in their graves. In other words, great writing, but no idea about some of the really good alternative music around at the time, just as Albee described.

He went on: where are the minorities, where are the young? Where are those on the edge? When it’s £40 for a seat… plus a £4 booking fee, (or £50 with a £5 fee – what, is the ticket heavier or something? FFS!) this is clearly an art form that has lost something of ‘the gift’.

It’s a question that perturbs me about the Emerging Church. Is it all just becoming too comfortable? Where has the edge gone? It may just be personal rather than universal, but I wonder if part of the reason that movements lose their edge is when they begin to exist not to discover, but to reveal. The praxis is lost amidst the performance?


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3 responses to “Middle Class, White Reactionaries | Theatre and the Emerging Church”

  1. good thoughts. I’ve always thought that theaters should function like the old Shakespearean theaters and always have “low cost” or “free” sections.
    on the idea of getting comfortable – I totally agree. That is, afterall, one of the reasons the first church communities grew so fast and strong – they lived constantly on the edge – sometimes the edge of life or death.

  2. Those who make a company of exploration by definition are always at the edge. Maybe each generation can only explore the edges in a certain span of the cycle. It may be inherent with every evolving component, that it must question what it proceeds. The mystic must make friends with the lack of company.

  3. theatre loving cheapskate

    I really enjoy theatre proformances, but it seems to be causing an even wider gap between the classes. At a recent performance I attended, almost all the men were in suits, and ladies in evening gowns, although there were a few rows in the balcony with your average Joes, with the ‘cheapskate’ £10 tickets. You know the sort, restricted views, need binoculars, etc. But they seemed to enjoy it even more than the “well-stuffed, over-comfortable, upper-middle-class, white, middle-aged reactionaries”. But I guess that’s how it used to be, even in The Globe!
    Maybe this says something about the church too? Things don’t have to be top-notch, the-best-money-can-buy in order for people to be interested, or feel the presence of God. Surely His presence is the most important thing? Who cares whether we use a £2000 powerpoint projecter, or pieces of paper, providing they meet the people where they’re at. And I guess that’s something that we perhaps need to go back to – when the church isn’t competing to be the best in the area, but meeting people where they’re at – in their community, not neccessarily in the Church building. Let’s get into their dirt, and mix up the classes – it wasn’t God’s intention for this division!
    After all, in His eyes we all have restricted views, and sometimes we need to take away the binoculars to see The Bigger Picture.
    Just a few thoughts…
    Be Blessed
    P.S Hear congratulations are in order – bet you’re a very proud dad!