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REVOLUTION IN THE AIR


The Cast of "Julius Caesar". © Photo by Craig Schwartz 2015

By A Noise Within
January 12, 2015

By Michael Bateman

Syria, Ferguson, Iguala, Ukraine, Gaza, Hong Kong. Los Angeles protesters making their voices heard from July through December, and into 2015. Now Charlie Hebdo, Paris. Where to begin with the theme of revolution?

When ANW chose a unifying vision for the 2014-15 season last spring, we considered revolution, societal upheaval, and disorderly public conduct as touchstones of our zeitgeist. We discussed income inequality, immigration debates, and the Occupy movement as general indicators that a growing portion of our community is dissatisfied with the status quo. Our theme of revolution intended to reflect the temperament of our community, but we could not have foreseen the sheer magnitude and strength of actual revolutions that would follow in the nine months since we settled on that theme.

As we were contemplating how the theme of the season relates to The Threepenny Opera, Figaro, and Julius Caesar, Geoff Elliott (one of our Artistic Directors) stressed that each of these plays has any number of themes that can be highlighted; but the choice of “revolution” focuses the audience’s attention on an aspect of the play that transcends our personal worlds and forces us to think more globally. A Noise Within is not now and never has been a theatre with a political message. We focus on classic plays that speak to the inherent joys and contradictions of the universal human experience. Our vision is to “expand personal awareness and challenge individual perspectives” – how cool is that? And we believe classic plays are exceptional vehicles for this vision because of their deep resonance over time: they speak to our modern experience as much as they did to those of a 17th century or 19th century human. And part of what makes our experiences converge in the theater is that we’re wrestling with the same issues today as we were 400 years ago. The Threepenny Opera highlights the compromises and the basest results of capitalism; Figaro offers the hope that the plucky lower classes can overcome the privileged with sheer guile; and Julius Caesar exposes the ugly reality that the desire to wield influence for the public good, and the ambition for personal power can vie within the greatest of our leaders no matter their intentions.

The theme of “revolution” sounds inherently political – we think about governments being overthrown and statues being pulled down – but the driving force behind revolution of any kind, public or personal, is the desire for change. We have a white board in the ANW office that lists sites and topics of revolution that have started or intensified since we began work on the REVOLUTIONary 2014-15 season, and it is covered in examples of exactly why classic theater is classic. The fight for justice, the hope against tyranny, the bravery of the weak against the strong are as present in our lives as they were when Shakespeare, Beaumarchais, and Brecht were writing about them. These rich messages resound today; it’s why we’re looking forward to sharing these fundamental human experiences with you this spring.

Michael Bateman is the General Manager at A Noise Within.
Contact him at 626.356.3105 or mbateman@anoisewithin.org

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