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Scenes From an Election

Mike Daisey as Donald Trump. (Photo by T Charles Erickson)
Mike Daisey as Donald Trump. (Photo by T Charles Erickson)

In a normal year, politics might be thought of as a branch of theatre, with its stagy dialogue, procedural drama, and poor players strutting and fretting their hours upon the stage, signifying—well, not nothing, exactly, though it can be hard to tell otherwise. But in this certifiably insane election year, which brings to mind the apocryphal curse “may you live in interesting times,” our politics, both nationally and globally, feel more like a kind of waking fever dream, an immersive psychodrama no self-respecting playwright would dare to imagine for fear of implausibility. The year of Trump and Brexit, Nice and Turkey, hasn’t just created a civilizational quandary of possibly epochal proportions; it has also, hardly coincidentally, left our storytellers, our dramatists, and our satirists with limited options to express and reflect the moment. After all, when the shape of reality already suggests the distorted grotesques of a funhouse mirror, what kind of mirror can the drama possibly hold up to it? If the stories in this special issue are any guide, it may be that the tools of theatre—empathy, narrative, unfakeable presence, narrative, the irreducible humanity underlying even the most transparently scripted performance—can show us a way forward, at the very least out of a solitary despair. If we are facing bleak and bewildering times, the exchange of theatre reminds us we are not alone in the dark.

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