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When Drama Becomes Propaganda: Why is so much political art so awful?

Terry Teachout

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You see a lot of plays when you're a drama critic, and you don't always get to pick them. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. Most of us have a way of sinking deeper into the velvet-lined ruts of our own well-established tastes when left exclusively to our own devices. To be a working drama critic, on the other hand, is to engage with what's out there, good and bad alike. Just because I expect to be exasperated by a show, or bored silly, doesn't mean I can afford to pass it by. Besides, I've been a critic long enough to know that only a fool writes his review on the way to the show. I can't tell you how often I've been surprised at the theater--both ways.

The most recent play to surprise me was a one-woman show called "Nine Parts of Desire." In it, Heather Raffo, an Iraqi-American actress and playwright, portrays nine characters based on a large and diverse group of real-life Iraqi women--a doctor, a painter who ran the Saddam Art Center, a political exile living in London, a young girl who loves the music of 'N Sync--whom she interviewed over the past decade. As interesting (and timely) as it sounded on paper, though, I hesitated before going to see "Nine Parts of Desire," because I feared that its perspective on life in Iraq would prove to be both predictable and tendentious. Specifically, I assumed that the characters would give every indication of having been carefully chosen (and their utterances no less carefully edited) so as to support a particular point of view about the war in Iraq, and that this point of view would be well to the left of center.

Read this article on the Wall Street Opinion Journal website (new window will open).

Posted: 08-Jun-05



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