Friday, January 30, 2009

The Companhia Triptal shows at the Goodman have been a highlight of several decades of Chicago theater -- it is unlike any show that has ever been seen on a Chicago stage. How does a show like this come into being? For one, they spend time slowly organically growing their productions -- four months of ten hour days developing one hour of theater, while most local productions are lucky to spend one month of six hour days developing three hours of theater. The missing element in Companhia Triptal's formula for excellence -- other than being Brazilian and being Geniuses -- is that they are supported by government grants rather than by ticket sales and dishwater dull utility-maximizing charities.

So the stimulus package has a contested 50M for the NEA, and an eager 14B for the universities. But what is more stimulating than good theater?

It is a truism that our educational system was obsolete by the time Gutenberg invented the printing press -- the purpose of a "lecture" was to have the students copy a text by hand -- and that academics, by maintaining a monopoly of credentials, have installed themselves as a mandarin class. However, their grasping greed in inflating faculty salaries during the last economic expansion should leave them vulnerable during the downturn, and a truly transformational President would let the universities suffocate for lack of oxygen while creating an alternative credentialing system that allies itself more closely with post-medieval technologies.

So imagine a stimulus package that included money for continuing education theater workshops, where -- all over the country -- people were invited to contemplate and discuss the great books, and create pieces of community theater that encapsulate their percieved essences. Wouldn't that workforce be both more motivated and more intelligent and more optimistic about humanity?

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