Monday, May 14, 2012

Politics and Art

I've always said that if someone is writing scripts with politics as the central theme, it meant that you had nothing to say. So, last fall, when I wrote and directed The Good Morning America Johnny Johnson Dream Show, which was about a morning information and commentary tv show, I had to wonder, sometimes, if I'd hit bottom. But, whatever doubts I had about myself, I knew that I wanted to discuss some of the problems we are all living through, which happens in the play by a lot of dead people coming back because they have things to say about what is going on, now. Rather than me inventing them, they came to me. It was a fascinating process to write a play where the characters told me what to say. While the result was not exactly what I wanted, it was an entertaining evening. I am like Bertolt Brecht in that I think that, if you want to discuss important realities in people's lives, you have to entertain them. Or, they won't listen. That's why the best scripts that focus on social and political issues are comedies. Though, for me, the most political play I know is Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Because, if people believed that love is the most important thing in life, they would change their lives. And, the world, and the way we function. Reading the newspapers, listening to the comments of television journalists on how to fix all the problems drives me crazy. The opinions and views are so short-sighted. Fixing problems is rarely a quick fix. Fixing problems really means discovering the source of the problem, which normally is going to be something that exists for a very long time. After all, greed, self-interest, and entitlement (the term for greedy people without power) are nothing new. Making laws may sometimes solve the problem, temporarily. If the laws are judiciously enforced. Ha, ha. As though politicians, judges and lawyers are going to enforce laws against themselves. No, we are going to have to admit that we are sick. If we did, we might be able to cure the problem, and ourselves in the process. One of the basic problems is how we define success. I grew up in a world of power and fame. I had enormous difficulty defining success. Because, I didn't want to be like all the successful people I knew. None of them were happy. I thought that most of them had betrayed themselves to become successful. That's the problem with the American dream. You are made to believe that, in order to be successful, you have to betray yourself to get what you want. Once you get it, then you can be who you want to be. Except, no one talks about the fact that when you get there, you are no longer who you were. It was very difficult for me to want to be successful. And, do what I had to do to achieve some of  my dreams. Yes, I believe that life is the process of trying to make your dreams come true.

I saw a good film the other day on Cable TV. Thank God, there is, occasionally something worth watching. It is very discouraging to pay a fortune to zap through over 300 channels and find nothing to watch. The film is called, Cinco Dias Con Nora (Nora's Will in English). It's an Argentine film made in 2008, about a Jewish woman who commits suicide the day before Passover (Jewish Easter) begins, and who can't be buried for 5 days. I won't tell you anymore. Except, that it was a pleasure to watch. The are many wonderful Argentine creators, writers, directors, actors and actresses. It's a film with a lot of quiet humor, truthful and entertaining. Whenever I see something like this, that moves me, that is simply about life, without pretension, I feel alive and hopeful. Even for myself, and my own creativity. Living in New York isn't an easy thing to do. It's all about fighting for recognition. Well, isn't that what success is? So, seeing something that is simply human, and that we can discover and enjoy, is very comforting.