Friday, July 27, 2007

Libertarian Theatre

So the Minnesota Fringe is rolling around again -- and for those of you who aren't in the know, it's the largest non-juried theatre Festival in the country. That means there's an even keel -- there's 163 shows selected by lottery, who are then left to sink or float on their own devices. How's that for a free market system?

In any case, it's Christmas for theatre junkies, and I'm one of the Festival's in-house bloggers -- I preview dozens of plays to help the audience sift through what they're interested in seeing. As, apparently, the Twin Cities' sole anti-state theatre critic, I thought the readers of this blog might be interested in shows with a libertarian bent.

Bad Dad: A Comedy of Errers

I was lucky enough to catch a production of this while I was touring in Iowa, and it's one of the most explicitly anti-state plays I've ever seen, period. If you're looking to catch one show this time around, it's this one.

Bleak, bitter, and funny as hell, this show works precisely because it recognizes that there's *nothing* funny about the ideas it's ridiculing. It tells the story of a man trapped between banks, law firms, the IRS, the Supreme Court, and the weight of the US government -- and his frenzied attempts to beat the legal system at its own game, to win back his liberty and his family. It doesn't shy away from just how totally, unapologetically *fucked* all of us are, and that it's *not* just a minor inconvenience, it's *not* just some silly, bureaucratic hassle -- that we're all trapped as part of a system that ruthlessly destroys people's lives.

I want people to see this show, not just because I'm in passionate agreement with its message -- although, of course, I am -- but because it's *good satire*, dark, mean, smart, and hilarious. It's wrestling with ideas that almost *nobody* else is onstage right now, so please, please, please make an effort to this show.

That's really the only explicitly libertarian show I'm aware of in the Festival this year. There are, however, several libertarian *artists* who are producing work, if you're interested in supporting them:

Descendant of Dragons

This is my show. In the past four years, I've been to Canada, Portugal, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, the Fiji Islands, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China, doing research on my Chinese ancestry -- so if you're interested in going to all of those places in an hour, this is the show for you. Not explicitly political, but one of the major themes of the show is individualism versus collectivism, and my politics become a significant plot point once I actually enter red China towards the end.

Robert Anton Wilson's Masks of the Illuminati

Robert Anton Wilson may have chosen to call himself a "decentralist grassroots Jeffersonian", but his tongue-in-cheek approach to conspiracy theory made him something of a cult favorite to libertarians everywhere. The writer/producer, Tim Uren, blew me away last year with a slavishly faithful one-man retelling of H.P. Lovecraft's "The Rats in the Walls," so this seems like one hell of a team-up to me.

Bouffon Glass Menajoree

A parody of the Tennessee Williams play. Bouffon clowning is hard to describe -- it's a form of French clowning that's sick, violent, hedonistic, and grotesque, pretty much the embodiment of contempt for authority. And by contempt, I don't mean a "ha-ha-let's-make-fun-of-Bush" contempt, I mean scary, cruel, raping-an-open-chest-wound kind of contempt. If you think that snuff films could use some wacky ragtime music in the background to lighten the mood, this is probably the show for you.

Tom Thumb, or The Tragedy of Tragedies

This is a collaboration between two of the Fringe's most talented entertainers, and it looks like all kind of whacked-out, trippy fun. The actor cornered me the other night, confiding in me (with all the glee of arrested adolescence) that they've made a real effort to cram in all the cock-and-ball jokes they could possibly think of, so that should tell you pretty clearly whether or not you're in the audience for this.

But I'm Not Bitter: Confessions of a Middle-Aged Lounge Lizard

To be honest, this show's kind of a crap shoot -- I've seen a few previews, and it could really be either brilliant or embarrassingly bad. The *script* is funny, smart, poetic at times, shifting between highbrow musings about Dante and Yeats to cheesy, Borscht-belt stand-up.

If you're interested in more of my thoughts, check out my Fringe blog Womb with a View. Remember, there's a lot of smart, edgy stuff happening out there -- and you can see more than one play a year.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Next Generation

My eleven-year-old niece is currently taking a radio drama class. She just wrote a commercial in which she does an impression of George Bush saying "Buy this product or the terrorists will win." it in the genes, or what?

Friday, July 13, 2007

This Is Not a Joke

Okay, even *I* think this shit is terrifying:

Words fail me. And that's saying a hell of a lot.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Why Does Political Theatre Have to Suck, Part One of a Very Likely Continuing Series

A few weeks ago, a friend and I went to go see a production at a theatre which shall remain nameless. She wrote an excellent post about how silly and pretentious the programme was, and I agree, though I think for the most part harmlessly so. I would, however, like to leap on board ridiculing the symbol next to some of the actor's names, which indicated the following:

"Supports peace in the world, equality and justice for all, and the fundamental human rights of speech and all forms of artistic expression."

Now, why does this get under my skin so much? Well, perhaps because I don't *agree* with it. I'm no pacifist, and I don't support peace on general principle -- I believe in the concept of self-defense, and recognize that we live in a world where self-defense is frequently necessary. I also don't necessarily support the idea of equality -- there are, after all, those who devote their lives to helping others, and those who devote their lives to spreading harm, and I don't see those as being morally equivalent.

Some will say that I'm missing the point, and they're absolutely correct -- because this sentence is so ridiculously vague that it could mean just about anything. And that's what I find so offensive about it -- that it is smug, and self-congratulatory, and purports to be daring while saying nothing whatsoever at all.

Perhaps you've become so insulated that you believe that a statement like this is still challenging and provoking. But it's nothing more than cheap applause line, the kind that many college theatre groups are fond of making, and I don't accept it from you, because you are fucking better than this.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Greatest "Fuck-You" in HIstory

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such From, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Two hundred and thirty-one years ago today, fifty-six men were preparing to sign their own death warrant.

(The date is somewhat arbitrary -- the fourth was the adoption by the Continental Congress, not the date of its endorsement by various colonial delegates. Still, tradition is tradition.)

It's just something I was thinking about, as I see all the chest-beating and flag-waving, all these cries of patriotism and nationalism -- that there was a time when this date was chosen to celebrate the rebellion against authority, not submission to it.

After all, a death warrant is exactly what the Declaration of Independence was -- we've somehow ended up with this image of stodgy, stately old men signing a document that was already held in reverence. Then as now, there were plenty of people who enjoyed peace, security, and luxury, urging everyone not to make trouble, to keep your heads down, everything's gonna stay afloat as long as you don't rock the boat -- and there were a number who were prepared to paint a target on their own heads and those of everyone they loved, for a principle.

It's a hell of a document, perhaps the single most eloquently phrased "Fuck-you" in human history. Hell, every time a new "war power" is declared, every time I'm told not to question our government, I remember the words:

...when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.

So fuck you, Bush, fuck you, two-party duopoly, fuck you, all of those people telling me what to do, what to think and what to feel. Jefferson may have articulated the idea with better skill than I'm capable of, but the spirit remains the same.

In any case, I'm off to enjoy the fine American tradition of Chinese fireworks. But let's not forget to raise a glass and toast to what Independence Day is all about:

Here's to high treason. I'll see you around.