Sunday, March 26, 2006

Saturday's third hour goes to the arts on RadioNation with Laura Flanders

There's never a set topic for Laura Flanders. That's because she's smart and part of being smart is being curious. So instead of sound byte, sound byte, thanks for dropping by, she actually listens and explores. (By contrast check out Baby Cries A Lot anytime he has an author or artist on his show. Laugh at his jokes or he moves quickly through his prepared points.)

In the last hour of Saturday's RadioNation with Laura Flanders, Flanders spoke with playwright Peter Morris and actress Katherine Moennig about the upcoming play Guardians. (The play opens, on April 11th and closes on May 25th, at The Culture Project in NYC -- 45 Bleecker Street at Lafayette.)

Morris' play was inspired by events in Iraq such as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Discussing the photos that have emerged (Flanders noted that "they aren't willing to release more" photos), Morris stated that it was the playwright's duty "to flesh out what's not covered." They discussed the nature of the scandal and how it was shocking news for a moment and then the corporate media moved on.

With Guardians, Morris is attempting to provide you with a fictionalized version of the story and to flesh it out beyond a news blip. (The play is a two character play. Lee Pace is the actor who stars with Moennig.)

Art should move you in some way. It can give you one of the emotions on the happy arc, or it can provide you with another emotion, but it should provoke and it should lead to discussion and thought. Somewhere along the way, the attacks from the right helped to distort that. Complaining about artwork such as Piss Christ, the right screamed for cutting off funds from the NEA and some in the public supported that and wondered why art couldn't just be painted landscapes and sea scapes. Or maybe paintings of animals!

What was with all the controversy, some wondered -- testifying to the need for a stronger liberal arts program in colleges and for increased funding of the arts in public schools for all grades. Art doesn't have to be "pretty" or "nice." In fact, if it's achieving the artistic goals, it very often is neither.

Something to remember after the news of a high school in Fulton, Missouri stopping the production of the musical Grease, due to three -- count 'em three -- letters complaining, and to cancel the planned production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible. As art (and entertainment) are the targets of "sanatized" campaigns, it's easy to forget that art's supposed to do something more than bring you the world you know, as you know it, and provoke nothing but the most simple response (of agreement) from you.

The role of art (in society, in politics, in the world around us) was a topic that Flanders, Morris and Moenning could address and explore and it's not every program that can do that. (Again, see Baby Cries A Lot for the rush-through-the-check-list approach.) We had decided ahead of time to make Saturday's third hour our focus for this edition because of an e-mail from Don who wrote, "Okay, maybe it's a great show but I'm tired on Saturday and don't feel like hearing about the news of the week." Well Flanders does cover the news (and we enjoy that) but every Saturday the final hour is usually devoted to the arts. It may be a playwright. It may be an author. It may be a musician. (Rickie Lee Jones remains our favorite Saturday final hour guest. ) Don wrote that he hoped we would note his e-mail and we have.

So here's our request for Don, forget today's show. It will be wonderful but you're not in the mood for it. Instead, next Saturday, make a point to listen to the third hour of the show. We don't know who the guest will be. But we know Flanders. Listen to the third hour of the show.
If you hate it, write us again and we'll note it. (Not every voice is for everyone.) But see if you don't enjoy it. If you do, maybe that's one hour of the program you can listen to each week. And maybe, if you listen for that hour, you'll start to wonder what she can do with political guests.

For those who are interested in listening to today's RadioNation with Laura Flanders (airs seven to ten p.m. EST), guests will include The Nation's Esther Kaplan and Bitch magazine's Lisa Jervis.
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