University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The Arts Collection

Page View

Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts of activism

Holden, Joan
Part VI: Guerilla theatre: comedy and revolution,   pp. [415]-[420] PDF (5.6 MB)

Page [420]

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
by the soubrette. In comedy the slaves defeat (by action usually, by implication,
the masters (Plautus and Terence, Jack Benny and Rochester), the children
the parents (Plautus and Terence, Rogers and Hammerstein), the cranks defeat
authorities (Aristophanes, the Marx Brothers). To take the side of the weak
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
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
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.

Go up to Top of Page