Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts of activism
Part VI: guerilla theatre: comedy and revolution, pp. - PDF (5.6 MB)
reputation of a craven flatterer. But flattery implies an end in view: Moliere is showing us (and Louis XIV) how things would be if kings behaved the way they should, instead of the way they do. The ideal accomplished by the king is the one articulated by the soubrette. In comedy the slaves defeat (by action usually, by implication, always) the masters (Plautus and Terence, Jack Benny and Rochester), the children defeat the parents (Plautus and Terence, Rogers and Hammerstein), the cranks defeat the authorities (Aristophanes, the Marx Brothers). To take the side of the weak against the strong is, simply and modestly, to attack the established order. What the established order may be a metaphor for is another question -the superego, rationality, experience, death: the whole cluster of circumstances limiting our freedom to expand as eros prompts us. It is no accident, and should encourage the serious-minded, that this freedom is associated with the defeat of tyrants. No one who has experienced the polymorphously perverse delight of the closing moments of, say, THE BOURGEOIS GENTILHOMME or AS YOU LIKE IT can deny that freedom (what Freud calls the euphoric state of our childhood) is what the audience, at least, is looking for in comedy. The astonished delight of people who happen on a ragged group of actors (us) performing in a city park says "this is the way it ought to be!" The comic vision restores, if momentarily, a lost confidence that everything good is possible. This confidence is the state of mind our art, on the whole, prides itself on denying us; it is also the state of mind that sustains revolutionary activity. The work of imagining the new society belongs to all revolutionaries in common; the job of all the arts is to piece together a vision of a better life so strong that people will finally insist on realizing it.