What Is Art For?

As we begin a New Year, here is the editorial I printed in the latest Arts Express Magazine talking about how art may help in the coming year.

A year ago, we had hoped that the worst days of the COVID pandemic were on the wane, and that the Democrats would offer perhaps an eyedropperful more in the way of healthcare and economic help. But even with our low expectations, the new regime managed to disappoint still further, and we had yet another year of deaths and hardships.

In the midst of this, it’s worth asking what is the role of art, both the performing arts and the visual arts in all this? How can they help us in our circumstances?

As we see it, on the most rudimentary political level, art can teach us; it can tell us stories of resistance, struggles for equality and justice, rising up against oppressors, uncover unknown stories that might prompt us to action. Art can also provide us with courage and inspiration, as when we sing in unison with our comrades, or cheer a protagonist in a film. These are important aspects of art, but we want to advocate, too, for some of the less acknowledged qualities of art, equally important, as opposed to the more overtly political.

The very making of art means that an artist is a human who observes the world, interprets it, and responds to it. The artist is an active agent in making the world rather than just accepting it. The act of sharing is important too; the artist says: the world looks this way to me, how about you?—even if we’re just talking about a bowl of fruit.  We can only understand this life by checking with others what their experience is, and sharing our own.

Crucially, though, in art we use our imaginations to tell the stories of others. In that act of imagination, artists explore the experiences of others, try on new roles for themselves. Although we only present a tiny slice of what we are and can be in our “real lives,” we begin to understand that each one of us contain multitudes. The real freedom artists allow themselves in creation is a wake-up call to the rest of us that most of the time we are walking around half-blind: blind to the possibilities of the world around us and blind to the possibilities within ourselves as human beings. That realization alone brings hope–and battles despair–as we try to live our fullest lives. We wish you all a happy and healthy year full of possibilities.

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A Brotherhood of Man

Daniel Radcliffe in a non-Harry Potter-ish role, insists on the unity of us all, as his corporate brethren in How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying agree. Robert Morse and Matthew Broderick who both played the same role, introduce the high-spirited number at the Tony Awards.

Who knew that Radcliffe was such a great song-and-dance man?

Thanks to YouTuber The xNYr

Impossible Card Through Table

Magician Jeki Yoo with an astounding blend of sleight of hand and apparent witchcraft seems to do the impossible. And what a great down to earth personality he has.

More amazing magic at JEKI YOO

Audition

Monday morning, put the oxygen tanks on standby.

That’s Graeme Henderson putting the chorus gypsies through their paces in the London West End revival of 42nd Street

Thanks to YouTuber Great Performances | PBS

Rebel Hearts: Defiant Nuns of the Immaculate Heart

In the early nineteen sixties, a hidebound Catholic Church attempted to modernize with a movement known as Vatican 2. But some Church people, nuns and priests, wanted changes that were a bridge too far for Vatican 2. In Los Angeles, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary went toe to toe with the church hierarchy, involving themselves in anti-war and social justice movements. I was happy to speak with Pedro Kos, the director of a new film documentary called Rebel Hearts about those women of the Immaculate Heart who insisted on staying true to their consciences.

Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the interview with Pedro Kos as broadcast today on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica stations across the nation.

Tonight

Monday morning, as the 1961 vs the 2021 West Side Story movie buffs argue, let’s go back to the glorious original Broadway theater cast of Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert. Certainly no one better than they were. Here they are in a tv appearance on Ed Sullivan, about 1958. Unfortunately, this YouTube version ends early, but some is better than none…

Thanks to YouTuber The Ed Sullivan Show

“They’re Worse Than You Thought And More Evil Than You Thought”

Alessandro Delfanti’s new book about Amazon is an excellent primer. Here’s the short version: the situation is worse than you probably thought, Amazon is more dangerous than you thought and they’re certainly more evil than you thought. But other than that…

Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear my review of the book as broadcast today on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica stations across the nation.

Everybody’s F**king But Me

The remarkable Geraldine Turner, Australia’s number one musical comedy star, equivalent to Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone and Angela Lansbury rolled into one, belts out her lament in her club act.

Definitely Not Suitable For Work or those offended by sexual content.

Thanks to YouTuber Brian Castles-Onion Ms. Turner’s husband

The Furnished Room

A romantic ghost story of the transients from O Henry, adapted and performed by myself.

Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the story, as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program heard on WBAI FM NY and Pacifica stations across the nation.

How We Gonna Pay…?

Monday Morning, waking up hyperactive, the power is out and last year’s rent is due.

The frenetic choreography is over the top for me, but the music and lyrics as sung by the 2008 Broadway cast of Jonathan Larsen’s Rent are still zippy.

Thanks to YouTuber BroadwayInHD