Dean Parker...after reading an interview by American playwright Tony Kushner

I read a really good interview with the American playwright Tony Kushner recently.  Really, really good.  In an American socialist magazine. Right on the ball.

Tony Kushner wrote Angels in America, a fabulous two-part, seven-hour play that was later made into a TV mini-series with Emma Thompson as a thrillingly deranged Angel Moroni.

Kushner is gay, an advocate for gay rights, but he's also a commie pinko and union agitator and his latest work is entitled-in a snappy marriage of George Bernard Shaw and Mary Baker Eddy-The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide
to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures. It features "a onetime Carmelite nun and former Maoist." Sounds like bliss to me.

In the interview he comments upon the charge that lefty playwrights like him are just preaching to the converted, preaching to theatre-goers with liberalish views. Kushner points out that in fact that's what preachers do, they preach to the converted. From Martin Luther to Martin Luther
King, their role is not to preach to people who don't believe, they preach in places filled with believers.

So that's the first thing. Then there is the misunderstanding, contained in the preaching-to-the-converted charge, about the role of theatre. The role of theatre is not to convert unbelievers. So, what does it do? Kushner answers by returning to the role of the great preachers-John
Donne, Martin Luther-for an answer. They were doing what playwrights do, "grappling with doubt, the great concomitant of belief... You go to the edge of what you're certain about. You go to the place where your certainties collide with other things that you suspect or fear may be true. Where one certainty collides with another certainty, and you make plays out of the
clashing of those things. You make plays out of going into the dark. You don't have a candle or you don't have a map or you don't have any idea what you're doing, and you ask the congregation, which is very likely to be grappling with the exact same issues, to come with you. Then, you go
forward collectively, to explore the dark and the unknown."

Well, exactly.

Kushner goes on to discuss the practical matters of political engagement and writing plays.  Activists go on marches, join in chants, hold up banners, do paint-ups, write leaflets, hand them out. They try to get articles into major newspapers. They try to change opinions. But that's not what writing plays is about. Writing plays is about something else; it's about, "the right to be really confused and to write about confusing and bewildering things."

Which is to say, the politics of successful plays are not decided before the chanting march commences. They come from the hearts of fragile, searching characters. 

What's more, if I could add my further tuppence-worth here, the audience is paying good money for a night out. If you offer it a political pamphlet instead, it gets pissed off and rightly so. It wants a show. I was once at a Marxism teach-in weekend in London. On the Saturday evening I was having a beer with some people I'd met and a young woman came up to us selling tickets for the agit-prop play that night. Bloke near me asked, "What's the play?" The young woman replied, "Socialism or Barbarism." The bloke near me immediately responded, "Two tickets to Barbarism, please."