By N. Pressley
20 years after Tony Kushner's influential Angels in the US looked as if it would claim a revitalized efficiency for the preferred political play, there's a "No Politics" prejudice undermining US construction and writing. This publication explores the principally unrecognized cultural styles that discourage political playwriting at the modern American level.
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Extra resources for American Playwriting and the Anti-Political Prejudice: Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Perspectives
As the scripts that Allen’s character submits draw acclaim and make him famous, political pressure rises through the television studio that employs him to name the names of Communists he may know—the very people, of course, for whom he is fronting. The film, a scenario that revives ghosts from the Miller-Hellman-“Hollywood Ten” archive, shows Allen’s character gradually finding his conscience until, summoned by the committee, he “Politics” 23 pointedly refutes their authority and walks out of the hearings.
Canby detected echoes of Chekhov in the wistful ineffectuality of certain characters, yet he also embraced Kushner’s broad comic style. ’ uses cartoon figures to suggest that man’s ability to bear up under the unbearable isn’t limitless. After being flattened by a steamroller, it suggests, people don’t pop back into shape like Bugs Bunny” (Canby). , however, pales next to that of Angels, despite its comparatively softer demands on audiences and producers in terms of time and resources, and its similar ease of accessibility.
Such, then, was the 1977 edition of Hellman. Hellman told Esquire in 1964, “I’ve never believed in political messages, so it is hard for me to believe I wrote them” (Bryer 66), but the playwright she played at the peak of her public visibility and literary acclaim in the 1970s not only believed in political messages intensely, but performed them. The third-act Hellman, more than the signatory of The Children’s Hour and The Little Foxes, is the Lillian Hellman of legend, the Hellman we now have in the archive: tarnished, perhaps, but intuitively political, aggressive in time of war with her own statements via stage productions, a petite single woman swinging back at the darkest powers of McCarthyism (Joe, not Mary), more durable and thus more Odetsian than Odets.