Monday, January 18, 2010

The Golden Globes and Arts Education: A Bit of a Rant

I know The Golden Globes and Arts Education seem not to have a lot in common but see if you can follow me (I wish you luck).

I watched The Golden Globes the other night but only half-enthusiastically. The movies this year haven't really excited me or I guess I haven't seen enough of them to care. I'm not sure what it is. I've seen some good movies but I guess I just don't care who wins.

Don't get me wrong, I'll watch The Oscars (well, after my show, I have a performance that night of Romeo and Juliet) and love it but I'm not so invested in who wins.

I did love Ricky Gervais though (he hosted The Globes), especially his irreverence; he made fun of everyone and everything Hollywood. He put it well when he said, "It's not like I'm going to be doing this again." As true as it might be, I enjoyed that he was pulling the Hollywood elite down a peg. Sometimes, I think they live in such a fake world, they truly feel the work they are doing is life-altering. I believe it was during Adrian Brody's Oscar acceptance speech for The Pianist, that he stopped the "get off the stage music" with "This is important."

Really? A gold statue for PLAYING a Holocaust survivor is important? I'm thinking the actual Holocaust might be oh, just slightly more important. As much as I love the movies and Hollywood, I do think they are full of it sometimes.

But at the end of The Golden Globes, Jim Cameron won for Avatar and he said, "Give yourselves as a hand. We have the greatest job in the world." It was nice to hear someone recognize that. I mean, I work in theater, I hardly make any money, but it's truly the best job in the world.

So that's a long way around to thinking about how exactly I can help the world. I just saw a French movie called The Class about a teacher in an economically disadvantaged arrondissement of Paris. It chronicles a school year as he deals with a class of teenagers who don't want to learn, or have trouble learning. Many of them are immigrants and dealing with home problems and the government, etc. Plus, over the weekend, I had dinner with my sister who works in such a school in Bridgeport, CT. So these people are doing good work, helping students in less than glamorous education. Now, that's important, Mr. Brody.

So, how is what I do important? Or is it important? Here's my answer (rationale?):

Teaching students math, English (French in the case of the film), reading, et cetera gives them the tools they will need to help them get out of their current situation. What arts education and theater in particular, can help them with is the desire and courage to try to change their situation. Growing up in an impoverished setting and seeing the same people stuck in the same jobs with no money does not give anyone incentive to break out and try to change their circumstances. Theater can teach young people that they are not alone; the emotions they have are universal and, that they can choose a different path.

I'll take Romeo and Juliet as an example since I'm reading that show right now in prep for rehearsals. The society that Romeo and Juliet live in chooses violence as a way to deal with their emotions. The "feud" between the Capulets and Montagues is described only as an "ancient feud." It has been going on so long, no one knows what it's about; they just know they don't like each other. Out of this society come two people who defy everything they have learned and love each other, and would rather die than live in the conventions of this "hateful" society. It's a powerful lesson; love is stronger than hate. But will such a tale really help troubled students?

I think it's possible. I think it's possible to expand people's minds with stories; to allow them to experience different situations or similar situations where different choices are made. I may be wrong, I don't know, but I do know that I feel more empowered when I know that someone out their feels the same way I do.

If you've made it all the way down here, thanks for listening and I'd love to hear your thoughts.


  1. I agree with most of this, and art is definitely an excellent tool to depict both unfortunate situation in life and how to rise above it.

    But, in Brody's defense, he stopped the music because he was attempting to talk about the repercussions of war and how war can dehumanize people, and not simply "adding more thanks" to winning an Oscar.

    One of my favorite Oscar acceptance speeches is Joe Pesci's, when all he said was, "It's my privilege, thank you," and walked off.

  2. Those programs are mostly self serving so I can't get too caught up in them. Art is art and worthwhile to humanity in its esthetics. Which is way up the triangle of Maslow's heirarchy of needs.

    But, I have to say, Sophia Loren was a hotsy-totsy senior citizen.

  3. i think that stories enliven and enrich our lives, unless we become too immeshed in them as a way to escape.

  4. Jeff: Thanks for pointing that out about Mr. Brody's speech, I didn't recall that. And Ronda, yeah, she's hot. and yeah, they are self serving. Interesting point Brian, they can be just a means of escape and then cannot enliven. As a friend of mine wrote on my facebook page (which I had thought of it): art can light a fire in the belly.

  5. Arts can open the eyes, ears and brain to new worlds, new possibilities, new ideas, new horizons (did I repeat myself?). We all have heard how much the practice of music expands the brain. I'm sure the arts open the mind to much, much more and I'm repeating everyone else, including Kate. I also watched the Golden Globes and was a bit disappointed in some of the results, the speeches, etc. But Robert Downey Jr. was great, Ricky Gervais was hilarious and Sophia was stunning and deserved the standing O.

  6. I've been disappointed in the movies here for a while, and generally do not watch awards shows. I do agree that the arts, including stage and cinema, develop imagination and can show the way towards other possibilities in life. That said, the tendency of Hollywood to rely on formulaic writing and sequels as well as certain body types, etc, has given me no reason to care about what it churns out anymore.

  7. Hmm . . missed the awards. I get bored watching celebrities in pretty dresses Thank God and their mother's.

    Kate I heard a guy from UNICEF on telly this morning who stated that the scenes of disgruntled Haitians were in fact over exaggerated. That the 'bad' areas in Port au Prince are still the 'bad' areas after the quake and that's where the cameras have focussed. Most of the population is static, patient and the aid seems to be getting through today. The focus of agencies has been rescue and recover and it takes a few days to mobilise 10,000 troops from the US and aid from all over the world in a country that has no infrastructure and no visible Government. They compounded aid to prevent the scramble. Isn't it amazing that the 'press' can get in there to give us these horror stories within 10 hours . .even tonight, one reporter had to retreat from his report because it started raining and would damage their satellite equipment! Poor thing. I fellt like punching his lights out! I think most Haitians are patient, waiting and will in the end be very grateful for the support.

    Haha poor kids. I once had one of Clare's friend's fathers locked in my toilet. The handle fell clean off! We were all barbecuing and giggling and drinking . . .took us about 20 minutes to notice he was missing. Poor sod was too fat to go through the window.

    I think all of us do something important without even realising it. I work in a place that builds houses for intellectually and physically disabled people. I don't lay the bricks, I'm a pen pusher but I help organise the project and that gives me enormous satisfaction.

    As for theatre, I miss it. So expensive here but we have a fantastic little amateur ensemble close by. I must patronise them more often. It broadens the mind, soothes the soul and teaches us some valuable lessons. And again, you are so fortunate to work in an area that clearly you are passionate about and love.

    Oh last long winded comment. One of my commenters is a 19 year old Hungarian lad. He is very conservative and very enamoured of the Hungarian education system but . . it's all learning facts and rote. Very little empathic learning or true understanding of how the world operates. There's much more to education than the three 'R's. Loved this post and I'm so tired I'm surprised I managed such verbage.

  8. I missed the Golden Globes, though I am a bit weary of award shows altogether - I don't hold the celebrities too much to account for what they say - I think they are too high on their good luck at winning an award to be entirely sensible anyway.

    I organize a children's day for an arts festival and am very careful about the entertainment and activities we provide. I know that whatever performances the children see will be soaked up by their little sponge-like selves and that is why it is so important to provide the best quality we can afford.It is such a reward to see hundreds of children's eyes being opened up to the arts and their imaginations being expanded to the possibilities therein. In short, the arts make life so much better.

  9. I agree completely. And very nicely put.

    And I must ask, have you seen Avatar yet?