Thursday, September 18, 2008

PREVIEW: Tom Stoppard's Rock n' Roll at A.C.T.

The West Coast premiere of Tom Stoppard's Rock n' Roll was last night. The show runs through October 12, and tonight is "pay what you wish night" which is when I'll be going for sure. Buy tickets.

The show is about the seventies Czech rock group The Plastic People, who brought down communism with the power of art, as Tom Stoppard will now explain:

“Let’s get this clear,” says Tom Stoppard. “The Plastic People did not bring down communism.”

Oh yes they did.
“Milan Hlavsa, who founded the group, said in several interviews that they weren’t interested in bringing down communism." continues Stoppard. "What they wanted was to play rock’n’roll music. A question to ask, then, is: were those two things as separate as he thought at the time?”

The band were clearly not dissidents; in fact, they were rather disparaged by those actively opposed to communist rule as a bunch of lazy hippies. But their decision to remove themselves from the official culture made them the perfect example of “living in truth” — to borrow Vaclav Havel’s phrase. Doggedly pursuing their own artistic vision was itself a resistance to totalitarian culture.

Will Tom Stoppard concede that much about his characters? Yes.

“Simply playing rock’n’roll was not a wasted, isolated gesture," says Stoppard. "And, by extension, one could make a grand claim for the potency of art in general — including rock’n’roll — and its ability to alter society. Do you think that’s a romantic view?”

A romantic view is cheap at A.C.T. tonight. Be there or be a soulless totalitarian bastard.

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