Thursday, September 11, 2008

Make Arts, Not War

Has anyone noticed that America seems to be making a lot more war than it is art? This is because twenty-odd years ago we allowed an actor to decide that arts (among other things) were suspicious, left-wing activities that might undermine the good, WASP-woven fabric of our nation. This meant destroying anything that might remotely fall under the mantle of "culture," which included those pursuits that might have enhanced American cultural literacy and given it a slim fighting chance against the classical European model.

The tentacles of Ronald Reagan's "Evil Empire" reached far beyond nuclear weapons and political ideologies. Reagan's red-scare fear of edification resulted in an educational and cultural system that is a laughingstock in all developed countries except for our own. We allow this because somewhere deep inside we are fearful of demanding a return to civilization.

We've been conditioned to ask for less and we get it. We can't hold a candle to Europe; we are so unenlightened that it's lights out for America. Our children can't spell, read, or write. The Bush Administration has crippled our hand so that we may as well be scratching an "X" where our signatures ought to be. The repercussions of Reagan's cutbacks gives us adults who have never seen a play and wonder why anyone should bother, or else they've seen The Lion King, that model of the ersatz, and have pronounced themselves satisfied. It's the same type of satisfaction you get from a supersized Coke: a sugar high and a roll of fat.

In our need for global domination, we have dominated ourselves into dumbness. That's the "duh" factor that the world's press is quick to attach to us, and guess what? It's pretty well deserved. Let's play Stump the American. It hardly even qualifies as a party game. We've become so dumb that, politically, we don't even know who is doing what to whom.

Gainesville, Florida is a small city with a big football team. You probably already know that. Gainesville is also home to artists, poets, and thinkers. We're not afraid to buck the system here, to take back that which has been lost. Gainesville is a city that supports arts enough to want to start a theatre for young children, an idea that today somehow seems revolutionary.

Isn't it funny that we worry about mass destruction when we should worry about mass communication?

Gainesville's new theatre is called the Thomas Center Theatre for Young Audiences, and the man behind it is the city's new events coordinator, David Ballard. Mr. Ballard's concept is to do real theatre for children, not afterschool-special theatre for children that will be forgotten with a click of the remote. This is theatre for families, and Mr. Ballard's goal is to encourage communication. Discussion. Good old-fashioned talk that gets young minds thinking and debating and voicing opinion. Theatre as a means of ethical dialogue, since you know you won't be getting that in your local school system with your bologna-sandwich lunch.

To help fund this important children’s program, Cultural Affairs will be hosting the 1st Annual Beaux-Arts Ball atthe Thomas Center on Saturday, September 27, 2008 at 8 p.m. The Beaux-Arts Ball is a costume gala that, in keeping with the Center’s 1920s history, is themed “The Roaring Twenties.” Live 1920s era jazz music by the six-piece band 23 Skiddoo has been put together by popular area musician Bill Hutchinson just for the occasion. There will be costumed professional dancers from Mostly Swing Gainesville demonstrating and teaching the popular dances of the times such as the Black Bottom, Lindy Hop and Charleston, along with an assortment of flappers andgangsters. There will be heavy hors d’oeuvres and BYOB (or flask!) set-ups. (Let’s hope the Untouchables don’t raid us due to prohibition!) General admission tickets will be $85, with tickets reserved before September 20 discounted to $75. Limited reserved table seating in the VIP room is $125. Space is limited, so advance reservations are highly recommended. The event will also include a silent auction with items donated by local artists and businesses. All proceeds will benefit the Thomas Center Theatre for Young Audiences programming.

As a journalist and blogger, I wholeheartedly support Mr. Ballard's program. I'm old enough to have spent my youth in just such a children's theatre, and from there I majored in languages and linguistics and went on to become a writer. My theatrical background wasn't merely about acting. I learned to play, and I learned to play with words. I learned to speak, and I learned that I could be a voice of one or I that could be part of the chorus.

To my many readers: Please support the arts in your own community. Make a donation. Buy a ticket. Hang a poster, hum a tune. Get involved or devolve.

Contact: David Ballard, Events Coordinator
(352) 393-8746

1 comment:

enc said...

If I was in Gainesville, I'd be there. I think this is a great idea, and children are the best place to start our cultural re-education.