Terry Teachout

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Not one of those smiley conservatives. (Image by David Shankbone.)

I guess I don’t follow the politics of playwrights closely enough, but my immediate reaction when I read David Mamet’s article, “Why I Am No Longer A ‘Brain-Dead Liberal,'” in the Village Voice a couple years back was: Mamet was a liberal?!? Having read his plays and watched his films, I always assumed that he was a right-wing guy. It wasn’t anything specific in his work, just a vibe I got from it. And who cares either way? He’s done a lot of great writing.

Terry Teachout has an analysis of Mamet’s conversion in Commentary. (The piece is pegged to Mamet’s new book of essays, Theatre.) It’s an interesting read, though I don’t agree with Teachout’s conclusion that politically liberal critics will only interpret Mamet’s work from here on in through the prism of his political transformation. An excerpt about Mamet’s disdain for government subsidies for theater:

“Conversely, Mamet dismisses state subsidy for the theatrical arts as no more than a means of propping up incompetent ‘champions of right thinking’ whose work would otherwise be incapable of attracting an audience. Such playwrights, he says, are purveyors of politically correct ‘pseudodramas’ that ‘begin with a conclusion (capitalism, America, men, and so on, are bad) and award the audience for applauding its agreement.’ For Mamet, such plays are the opposite of true theater, whose power lies not in its willingness to coddle our preconceptions but its unparalleled ability to shock us into seeing the world as it really is. ‘In the great drama,’ he writes, ‘we follow a supposedly understood first principle to its astounding and unexpected conclusion. We are pleased to find ourselves able to revise our understanding.'”

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