Sunday, June 26, 2005


"Take Me Out" and DC Baseball

It is truly wonderful that the Studio Theater's excellent production of "Take Me Out" happens to coincide with the revival of major league baseball in Washington, after an absence of over three decades. (I'm sure the theater and baseball schedules were carefully coordinated). At yesterday's Nationals game, George W. Bush and Condi Rice, both strong baseball fans, were present. Their attendance, of course, warranted a mention in the national press and helped promote baseball, sports, and the nation's capital as a place to come for baseball. I wonder how many members of this administration have gone to the theater in Washington.

It does so much for the theater when prominent members of government step out and participate in the cultural life of the city. I know security is a nightmare and Bush is not exactly a culture vulture, to put it mildly. Still, does anyone know if any members of Congress regularly patronize the theater? Offhand, I can think of only Abraham Lincoln--who loved the theater--as a president who went out to see shows in D.C., and his night at Ford's Theater didn't end well. Truman loved classical music. They say that culture in the Kennedy White House was really Jackie's love, and her husband went along. Perhaps the First Ladies are the best ticket to theater.

First Lady Laura Bush was at the National Theater for a performance of "I Am My Own Wife" the evening I was there. It was wonderful to know that a member of the White House was present, and I hope she told her husband about the show, which was an unforgettable performance, one of the finest shows I have ever seen. And yes, it was exciting for me as an audience member to know that I was sharing the same experience as the First Lady, who is the only member of the Bush family I can stomach.

Could she drag her husband to the Studio to see "Take Me Out"? Gimme a break--it's a show with male nudity, about a player who comes out as gay. It's not the best place to shore up the Republican base. Plus the security arrangements would be horrific (remember Abraham Lincoln). Still, one can hope, perhaps forlornly, that Washington's cultural life will have a positive impact on any administration.

A small similarity in newspaper coverage, at least in the Washington Post, persists between local coverage of the national pastime and local coverage of the theater: it's difficult to find out what's going on in either case. I have rarely been able to rely on the Post's theater reviews to know if I should go to a show. And readers of the paper now say that they can't follow the Nationals games, in a play-by-play fashion, by reading the sports section. You get "highlights," like a television news show, but can't really sense from the article if it was a good game or not.

One thing is certain: as the dog days of summer descend on DC, both baseball and the theater need increased support and bottoms in the seats. As a letter to the WashPo's editor stated today, we need to raise our voices in our distinctive chant: "We're from the government, and we're here to help! We're from the government, and we're here to help!"

Actually, a number of politicians -- on both sides of the aisle -- attend theatre regularly. Opening nights at many theatres include various protective services personnel.

It used to be that if a president went to the theatre, it was publicized. I suspect that the Secret Service decided that wasn't the best idea. I know that I have been in the audience at various times with Supreme Court Justices, congressmen and women, Cabinet members (Condaleeza Rice is a HUGE fan of the performing arts ... and is a near concert quality pianist), presidential family members and once even the President.

When celebrities go to a sporting event, they go to be seen. There are ALWAYS cameras at a sporting event.

When celebrities go to the theatre -- they go to enjoy the performance and will do anything not to upstage it. If ever you are at a theatre and the lights go down ... and stay down for longer than normal ... odds are that someone you'd recognize are being slid into a seat on the aisle near the back.
Hmmm. You're probably right, Sherri. But I wish, then, that they'd TALK about the show afterwards, saying, "I saw 'Take Me Out' last week and found it very stimulating" or even something bland like, "I so enjoy the theater in Washington." Politicos spent a lot of time spitting on Washington when I was growing up (admittedly there was a lot to criticize--schools, crime, culture). But everything, except the schools, is much better now. If I were visiting their hometowns, I'd try to boost it a bit, if I honestly thought there was something to boost. It's a way someone can assist a worthy cause--culture--without riling any feathers. As it is, the appearance they offer is that they can't wait to get out of DC, which is a black hole. Not fair to a lot of people who are working hard to make DC a wonderful place to live. I notice Bob Dole, one of my favorite Republicans, didn't head back to Kansas. He lives at the Watergate. He must OCCASIONALLY venture to the Kennedy Center. Right?
I wish politicians weren't such opinion makers, but they are. They're eager to have their photos taken at restaurants, particularly ethnic restaurants--why not theaters?
Is is that theaters are seen as elitist? Just not sure. Americans can't stand snobs, that's for sure.
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