Hiding behind art

I am not so serious
This passion is a plagiarism
I might join your century
But only on a rare occasion – Girl Anachronism, The Dresden Dolls

I’m a big fan of musician Amanda Palmer. You’re on your own finding her since she’s not exactly SFW in the Theatrefolk universe but I mean, Google’s not exactly difficult to use. SIDE RANT ON: It’s not that difficult to find things, people. I’m amazed at how many individuals call us up, looking for a play that isn’t ours, that we find on Google in about three seconds. Take three seconds and look it up! SIDE RANT OFF.

I think Amanda is crazy. Crazy in an every thanksgivings dinner till the end of time might end badly kind of way.

But I also think she’s crazy in a totally committed to her art, totally committed to making a living as an artist, making the kind of art that fuels her passion kind of way. I love her relentless commitment to social media, she’s one of the few people I’ve seen use Twitter as a effective tool. You need a little crazy to do those things. I have such admiration for artists who commit. Who never give up. Who work hard.

Lately on her blog (again, not that hard to find, people) there’s been a huge manure storm over a recent project. And whether or not the project is offensive. And whether or not she’s a brave artist or merely hiding behind her art so she can, I assume, be offensive. That is all opinion and subjective. It’s neither here nor there. I think people like to get on a higher step from someone else and push. Myself included – I can’t say I’ve never been judgmental. Occasionally it’s my middle name.

But here’s what Amanda said that got me thinking. You should think about it too, especially if you practice some form of art. Here’s how she defines ‘hiding behind art’:

producing inoffensive, corporate-penned, vanilla-bean love-story family-friendly made-for-mainstream-radio music that won’t offend a single person. and won’t make anybody laugh, won’t make anybody think, won’t make anybody wonder, won’t make anybody talk, and won’t change anybody’s life.

Whoa. Trade out the word music for plays and I have to take a step back about my work. I have to spend a moment and think about this. What kind of playwright am I? Am I hiding behind my art? Am I afraid to make people think? Am I afraid to offend?

I write vanilla-bean family friendly stuff. You bet I do. None of my vignette plays are going on any top ten edgy plays list. It’s the nature of writing for the school market. There are some well defined guidelines and there’s just not a lot of point in writing a piece with a bunch of swears, or wild sex. But is fear guiding that choice? Is that hiding behind my art? Am I a coward?

Maybe. If vanilla was all I wrote, maybe it would be hiding. I’m not a corporate shill. I’m not afraid to shy away from issues. I like find creative solutions to sticky subjects (the future is a fabulous place to write about the here and now) and I love writing in awkward anti-kitchen sink formats that teens aren’t used to. I would firmly stand behind Tick Talk as an artistically brave format choice.

And what if I like my vanilla? I love my vignette plays and think they’re really effective for a certain type of drama group. At the high school level the subject matter of a piece isn’t what changes lives. It’s the skill set learned through participating in a play: communication, team building, self confidence. ths phne 2.0 has just as much an opportunity to change a teenagers life as The Pregnancy Project does.

It’s good to think about these things. It’s good to know who you are as an artist and what defines your art. Of course, it won’t be the same for everyone; that would make it wal-mart. Vanilla wal-mart.

Are you artistically brave? Hiding? Or does it matter? Does it really matter at all?

About the author

Lindsay Price