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The Robert Frost of Playwrights

12.05.11 | 20 Comments


CATEGORIES conversation starter, playwrights

I am a tremendous admirer of the verses of Robert Frost. I’ve been studying his work for as long as I’ve been studying poetry, which is (at happens) more than a couple of decades now, and it continues to yield new discoveries for me. He was a prosodic genius—a fact that I fear goes largely unrecognized by most fans of his work, who react largely to his occasionally folksy and deceptively simple diction—and a deeply complicated thinker. I will probably return to his poems time and time again throughout my life.

Although I’ve read two or three autobiographies of Frost along the way, I don’t presume to know his true character. What I do know is that Frost the poet and Frost the man are often mistaken for one another. We imagine him to have been a slightly curmudgeonly person, a stolid New England patriarch with the wisdom of hard soil and tough winters in his bones and a half-smile in his eyes. His writing, by contrast, has many moods and tones and voices that do not always square with the grandfatherly image we have of him. The truth, as always, is probably still buried under a pile of leaves in a woods somewhere… and may remain buried forever.

And still: that image of Frost is compelling. So many of us—even those of us with little exposure to poetry—can conjure him up. He has become one of the few iconic American poets (along with Whitman, Dickinson, and perhaps to a lesser extent Ginsberg). He’s important to our country’s history. You might be aware that he actually wrote a poem for the inauguration of President Kennedy (an event that pre-figured what I would call the dismal artistic failure of Maya Angelou at Clinton’s inauguration). What you probably don’t know is that Frost was also viewed with enough gravitas and respect to actually advise President Kennedy on a variety of sensitive political issues. Can you imagine that? A poet advising a President? He really mattered.

Why has the same never been true of a playwright? I’m not asking why, say, Tony Kushner hasn’t been seated at President Obama’s right hand during difficult discussions about Afghanistan. I’m asking why we don’t revere playwrights in the same way Frost was revered in his lifetime. And I’m not talking about celebrity, either, or Arthur Miller and/or Neil Simon might quality: I’m talking about something bigger and more permanent than that.

Yes, there are playwrights working today whose names we all know—and by “we,” I am referring to the run of theatrically-educated folks who read this blog—but there aren’t any living playwrights who’ve entered the general public imagination, with possible exception (because of his work in Hollywood, perhaps?) of David Mamet. Do you want to make a case for the notoriety of Edward Albee, or the aforementioned Tony Kushner? Fine: that’s not my point.

My point is that none of these fine folks, nor anyone else you’d care to name, have the general respect and admiration of the American populace. They don’t appear on the Sunday morning news programs, they aren’t on David Letterman, they don’t write for Reader’s Digest or USA Today, they don’t back non-profit campaigns, they don’t pitch (even high-end) products of any kind, and they certainly don’t advise sitting politicians. They just (primarily) write plays.

Is there something about our art form that makes us ineligible for icon status? Is it our association, however remote, with the seemingly-shallow glitz and glamour of Broadway? Is the fact that we only rarely act in our own plays, while poets have to stand up behind the podium and air their own verses (on the rare occasions on which they are called to do so)? Is our work generally too accessible, too much “of” the people, to be seen as grand or elevated in any way? (Not likely…)

Or is it that the current state of American culture simply does not allow for artists of any genre to be icon-ified? I have a hard time thinking of anyone, short of a few actors, who are granted such treatment (whether they merit it or not). We may no longer be living in an age in which that’s possible.

If so, that’s sad to me. I wish the world wanted what playwrights have to offer, which is (at least in part) the ability to think about narratives: to help us edit the stories we are living publically, politically, and personally and make them more liberating, more healthy, more imaginative, more invigorating, more revealing, and more useful. I think we could make a difference if we popped into the Oval Office for five minutes now and then. I think we’d be useful in times of national crisis, or to help dramatize complex scientific ideas vital to our nation’s health, or to rally people to important causes. I think we would earn the same respect the world afforded Frost.

If time hasn’t passed us by, that is.

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  • Steve

    I wonder if the relative cultural status of playwrights isn’t due in large part to the relative inaccessibility of theatre compared to other art forms. I don’t mean inaccessible as we usually discuss it (economically/culturally/geographically), but the simple fact that it’s a lot easier to read a poem than see a play. To read Robert Frost’s greatest poems, a person just has to go to the library (digital or brick & mortar). Once upon a time, people didn’t even have to do that. While he was alive and writing, Frost’s work appeared on people’s doorsteps, printed in the nation’s most popular magazines.

    To see Tony Kushner’s greatest hits, you’d have to travel far and wide, or have the patience for theatres near you to decide to do his work.

    To read all of Kushner’s work is much more feasible. But it takes a lot longer to read a play than a poem, and even then you’re only getting a vague idea of what the play could be. Reading a play is like having someone describe the latest issue of Action Comics–you get an idea of the story, but not the artform.

    A poem, on the other hand, is read in the comfort of your own home and can be re-read when and where you wish. There are people who had to memorize poems during school and who, given a little prompting, can recite them back decades later (“Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer. Things fall apart…etc”).

    Keeping that in mind, it’s no surprise that poets have sunk deeper into the American consciousness than playwrights.

    BUT, I also think that means that time hasn’t passed playwrights by, or that the cultural zeitgeist is hostile to us. It is, at least up to this moment in history anyway, a limitation of our medium. But that doesn’t mean it will always be that way, or that we can’t find ways to help an artform dependent on human contact to radiate beyond its natural boundaries.

     

    • I really do actually think there’s a lot to what you’ve said here. The entire mechanism of a poem happens inside one’s head and lasts, at most, a few minutes. And after the cost of a book of poetry — $3 in a used book store? — everything else is free. Very different than theater. And one can read ALL of what Frost wrote in a few days or so (though to really encounter it, one might spend a bit longer, natch). But to see all of Kusher’s work would be a much more difficult endeavor.

      I also agree: time hasn’t passed us by. I don’t feel fatalistic as a playwright. I see many possibilities. (Though I did end, I see now, with a bit of a melancholic coda…)

  • Scott E. Walters

    I don’t know if this addresses your question or not, but can you think of a playwright who wrote a play as powerful as one of Frost’s best poems? I think Kushner might qualify, but I’d be hard put to come up with another. Most contemporary work I encounter has all the depth of a child’s plastic pool. 

    • Scott, I’m someone with a profound love of both genres, and I have to tell you: I’m with Steve below. Lots of work with tremendous depth.

      Of course, the simple fact of the matter is that most of the work made in the present day won’t stand the test of time: not all of it because it isn’t “great,” but most of it for that reason. So you’d really have to compare playwrights of Frost’s generation with Frost, or playwrights of today with poets of today… and I think the generations would probably fare equally well.

  • Steve

    Can someone please take Scott out on a date to see some good contemporary plays by Ruhl, Vogel, Ives, Churchhill, Ehn, Taylor Mac, Ella Hickson, somebody tag in..

  • Maybe I’ve been lucky, but most everywhere I’ve lived and worked, people have seemed more aware of playwrights than poets outside of the “greatest hits” of Frost, Dickinson, maybe Whitman, Eliot, Williams. Outside of academia and, where I grew up, the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, I haven’t run across many pure poetry fans.  (I was raised by poets, so it’s not like I was isolated.)  There’s the poetry slam and hip-hop poetry culture where it still thrives, but I’d argue that that’s just as out of the mainstream as the sad playwrights in terms of mass media attention, if not moreso.

    Your example on Twitter of people rattling off the names of poets like Jewel, Jimmy Carter and Maya Angelou sooner than they’d name playwrights is a little silly.  Jewel & Jimmy Carter are published poets because they were famous for other things first.  Even my wife thinks of Maya Angelou as a novelist first, because that’s how she first knew Angelou.  I suspect you’d have a hard time finding people on the street who could name a modern, living poet whose fame came first and foremost from their poetry.

    People may be able to quote poems they memorized in school, but more can talk about plays they’ve seen, films adapted from those plays, etc.  After we did a show by David Rambo here, some people came up to ask if it was the same David Rambo as wrote for CSI.  (It was.)  I’ve had the same experience with Law and Order writer/playwrights as well.  (Hey, Warren Leight!)  Even had one person recognize playwright Sean Reycraft as a writer for Degrassi High.  

    David Letterman.  Yes, he features Broadway musicals regularly and even did a Lombardi-themed Top Ten list last year with the cast from the play, but those are a different thing.  Unlike the other major broadcast network late night shows, he does feature playwrights from time to time.  (I’m ignoring Charlie Rose & Tavis Smiley on PBS because we expect playwrights on PBS.)  Mike Daisey has been on, Spalding Gray was on several times starting in the early to mid 80s, Wendy Wasserstein, Amy and David Sedaris, Harvey Fierstein, Lewis Black–those are all off the top of my head.  (Of course, Steve Martin, Zach Braff and Jesse Eisenberg have all appeared as well, but they may be better known for other things as well.)  

    Not only that, but Letterman sponsors the Writopia Lab’s Best Playwrights Festival for young playwrights.

    http://www.writopialab.org/Manhattan/bestival-2011.html

    So maybe Letterman isn’t the best example.  Between the Late Show, the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, there’s a surprising amount of exposure for the theatre arts even now.  (Maybe it’s not so surprising–all three are based out of NYC, and theatre folk make up a fair portion of their writing and performing staffs.)

    And then you have HBO adapting plays into films.  No one else was going to make “Wit” or “Angels in America.”  Is it the same experience?  Of course not.  But people in my little river town know about “Wit” even though they couldn’t tell you what a Tony Award is about.  (Sorry, Howard.)  People here asked me if I’d been watching “In Treatment,” because every episode seemed like a play; when I pointed out that it was mostly written by playwrights, they started to pay attention to the names.  (Hey again, Warren!)

    For that matter, HBO also ran “Def Poetry Jam” for several years, featuring an astounding array of both new and established poets, even playwrights, and they still feature the “Brave New Voices” slam competition each year.

    Could there be more exposure?  Hell yeah.  It’s a much different media landscape now than back in Frost’s day, or O’Neill’s or Williams’.  (Tennessee, that is, not William Carlos.)  Still, that’s something.

    But writing for Reader’s Digest or USA Today?  Pitching products?  Really?  After television’s “golden age” of the late 50’s, Rod Serling was one of few writers at the time accorded iconic status–he was known for his writing long before the Twilight Zone.  After that, he did countless commercials and promotions during the 60’s that undermined and cheapened that iconic status.  We forget that now because of the Zone, but at the time, he was widely mocked–even by himself–for his descent into product pitchman.  

    As for editing and shaping the stories of our world, I think we still do that.  Tony Kushner and Larry Kramer managed to shift attention to the AIDS crisis during a Republican presidency–they weren’t going to be invited in to talk policy, but attention was paid nonetheless, spiraling out to other media, other conversations.  Certainly their plays have achieved iconic status as a result.

    I guess my real question is, do we even need a Robert Frost of playwrights?  It seems like a valedictory honor–Frost was 85 at Kennedy’s inauguration, after all.  If we’re looking for playwrights who can draw attention to social causes outside of the immediate theatre world, then maybe Tom Stoppard, David Hare, Tony Kushner, maybe even Mike Daisey now, considering the attention his current show has drawn.  Of course, two of them are from the UK where there’s more support in general and more opportunities across the various media.  Of the others, one is monologuist and one can’t make a living as a playwright, apparently.  (I’m looking forward to the Lincoln movie he wrote for Spielberg, but that’s just me.)

    • So very much to respond to here.

      — I find it very hard to imagine that people were more aware of contemporary playwrights than contemporary poets during your (or anyone’s) childhood. I’m not calling you a liar, I’m just saying that even if your particular experience is true, I have grave doubts that it’s generally true.

      — I don’t think my example is silly at all. I think it’s realistic. I think that’s who most of America would name (if they would name anyone at all) when asked to name a living poet. Add in a few other hip-hop artists and musicians, too, while you’re at it… easily several dozen people who might come up before, say, Billy Collins. In the main. We like to think that most Americans are more educated than they are. We want to believe it. I can’t bring myself to be that optimistic. At least not today. And I won’t look at my own circle of friends or the people I relate with through theater to measure awareness, either. It would be a very skewed sample.

      — I think there’s much, much to disagree with or debate in your general run of thoughts about the familiarity of playwrights and poets (particularly the way you so easily, if understandably, conflate screenwriters and television writers with writers for the stage), but I’m just going to concede your point that generally speaking, among educated arts-loving Americans, storytellers (to use a catch-all term for various artists) are more well-known than poets. By far, even. But my main point was about gravitas, loosely speaking. Do any of the folks you name (the living, contemporary ones) have the cultural clout (not Klout, mind you) to solemnize a political occasion, for example? I do not think so. I wish they did. Furthermore, any appeal they might have would almost certainly be skewed to certain demographics; Frost, by contrast, had a clear both-sides-of-the-aisle appeal, even if he did befriend Kennedy.

      — You mock the things I would have playwrights do, but why? I’m not afraid of commerce. I think it would ROCK, in fact, to see, say, Bruce Norris in a Mac ad (not gonna see Mike Daisey, natch), or Nilaja Sun doing a testimonial for, I don’t know, PETA. (You know who comes closest here, oddly? Sam Shepard, who could easily do commercial voiceovers. Actually, now that I think about it, Laurence Fishburne is a playwright… and he HAS done them.) I also think it would be spectacular if Sarah Ruhl’s thoughts about (making this up) civility during the holiday season were widely-respected enough to appear in Newsweek or some other broad-spectrum publication. Those are the kind of indicators of general cultural respect. I believe in them.

      — Finally, your big question: do we need a Robert Frost of playwrights? Maybe we don’t. I’m not even sure it’s possible. But it feels to me like it would be a good thing. It feels to me like if we were positioned within the larger American culture as artists worthy of respect and consideration, even as people generally more focused on things human than on things partisan, it would go a long way toward de-marginalizing what we do. And that would be a very good thing.

      • First, I agree, it would be wonderful if people were “more focused on things human than on things partisan.”  I hope we can get to that point again.  

        As for playwrights…in my childhood (and yours), Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Neil Simon and Edward Albee were all still contemporary playwrights.  I’m pretty sure any of them would have had more name recognition than Anne Sexton or Ted Berrigan, Andrei Codrescu or Adrienne Rich.  Maybe Allen Ginsberg might have broken through.  Maybe.  But I bet even today, more people know The Crucible than Howl.

        Gina Gionfriddo, Eric Overmyer, Theresa Rebeck, Stephen Belber, Marlane Meyer, Diana Son, Marsha Norman, Jerome Hairston, Warren Leight.  These are all people I think of as playwrights first, many of them with Humana Festival productions under their belts.  But they’ve all written for one or more of the various Law & Order series.  Hell, Eric Bogosian starred in a Law & Order for several years.  

        Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is writing for Glee.  Alan Ball is on his second HBO series and developing another.  Aaron Sorkin’s got a new HBO series as well.  Alexandra Cunningham wrote for NYPD Blue–as did Rebeck–and ran this year’s Prime Suspect on NBC.  Rebeck herself is behind NBC’s upcoming Smash, which has Jason Grote, David Marshall Grant, and Jacquelyn Reingold on staff.  Reingold & Norman also wrote for In Treatment, along with Adam Rapp and Keith Bunin, working under Leight.  Jon Robin Baitz’ Brothers & Sisters just had a five year run on ABC.  Bill Cain created & ran the excellent Nothing Sacred.  Sheila Callaghan is finishing a pilot for USA Network.  I’m not conflating playwrights with writers for television or film, they’re doing that themselves.  More importantly, they’re all coming back to the theatre in between.  And I don’t see anything wrong with that.

        The fact is, almost any time you see many of them profiled anywhere, their names are prefaced with the word “playwright.”  Not producer, not scriptwriter.  Playwright.  Which is why I don’t think we’re nearly so marginalized as you think.  By working in these other media and self-identifying as playwrights, they make a statement–sometimes their stage is filmed, but whatever they write, they’re writing for a stage.  Almost any of their television scripts could be placed on a stage and performed live with minimal–if any–changes.

        Because of that, I can bring up Side Man by Warren Leight in conversation around here, and people know his name as a writer.  Not as a singer or a former politician, but as a writer and storyteller.  I know this because I’ve done it–I’d love to produce Side Man here.  But I’m not looking at this through the prism of friends or theatre folk either.  Remember, I live in a place where there are people who think Toby Keith is a poet.  I don’t have any illusions about the cultural awareness of the general public.  I’m also well versed in this thanks to working with our local bookstore, one of my marketing clients.  It’s something we face regularly.  Their poetry events are sparsely populated, even the open mic ones.  Some people here might be able to name Norbert Krapf as a living poet only because he’s the state’s poet laureate and has done several readings in town.  (Truth be told, I had never heard of him until I was designing a poster for a reading.)

        But if we decide film and tv writers don’t count, then we can’t conflate singer-songwriters with poets either.  There’s poetry in what they do, but it’s a very different discipline.  Paul Muldoon’s poetry isn’t meant to be sung, but the songs he writes with the band Rackett aren’t meant to be read at a podium, either.  They’d work, as do the lyrics of Paul Simon or Bruce Springsteen, but they’re still different.  My point was not that I think Americans are more educated than they are, it was that most people aren’t likely to name someone who is first and foremost a poet.  They’ll run through dead poets learned in school, singer-songwriters, hip-hop artists, what have you.  They might even get to Jimmy Carter.  I’m not even as optimistic as you are–I doubt the average person on the street would even name Billy Collins.

        As for gravitas, I don’t think it’s possible in this day and age.  People are quick to identify bias whether justified or not–the Muppets were just blasted by Fox News as liberal brainwashing tools in what a lot of people took to be an Onion parody but was sadly true.  And nowadays, we’re drowning in continuous noise.  Back when Frost spoke for Kennedy, you had three networks, you had a limited number of radio options, you were limited to the books in your bookstore or library, the movie at your theater.  You had a few general, broad-spectrum publications that had a reasonable expectation of being read by a wide audience.  Everyone watched Ed Sullivan.  The average American citizen had roughly the same cultural touchstones.  That’s not the case anymore.

        But why should a playwright solemnize a political occasion anyway?  The specific forum of the inauguration was and is ideally suited for a poet.  What kind of occasion would be comparable for a playwright?  We can give a talk, we can write a poem, but it’s still going to be a different form than playwriting.  (Unless you’re Sorkin.)  (I’m not entirely kidding.  I’d put most of the first two seasons of West Wing up there with the best television writing.)

        So no, I’m not worried about a Robert Frost of playwrights.  I am curious though.  Who’s the Robert Frost of poets now?

        • For someone who’s “not worried about a Robert Frost of playwrights,” you sure have had a lot to say in response to the subject. 🙂

          Look: I’m not saying any of those fine writers you listed aren’t playwrights just because they work in television: absolutely they are. But I think you radically overstate the ability of people to name them. I think you are allowing your own circle of friends and acquaintances (despite your protestations to the fact that they “think Toby Keith is a poet”) to stand in for the general run of the American public.

          Let me say it more simply: I think any broad survey of the American public with the following two questions:

          1) Name a living American playwright.
          2) Name a living American poet.

          Would get primarily blank stares for the first question and Jewel, Jimmy Carter, KRS-One, Toby Keith for the second one.

          (Of course, that’s just my suspicion; I haven’t commissioned the poll.)

          And you know why they wouldn’t name any of the people you mentioned in response to question one? Because they think of them as television writers, first and foremost, no matter how those artists think of themselves. 

          I also think most people wouldn’t even be ABLE to name those folks, with the possible exception of Aaron Sorkin. If I asked my mother, for example, to name a living playwright, her only answer would be me. And if I asked her to name someone who writes for television, she wouldn’t have a clue. And she watches television ALL THE TIME. I think she is far more representative of the American public than you, my friend — you are a noted television savant with an in-depth knowledge of theater. Rare skills.

          I suppose I might agree that gravitas may be more and more difficult in this day and age (though I would not say impossible — I think our President, for example, has at least a dollop of it). That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t WANT it, though, does it? Frankly, I miss it. I want it back. Perhaps I’m the only one…

          And yes, I suppose that poetry is more appropriate for solemnizing things. Perhaps it’s the kinship between poetry and religion. (The language of verse and the language of the great books being so similarly heightened.) But I can think of a more than a few playwrights who could handle the necessary diction of a stirring inaugural speech, can’t you? Again, though: I cede the point that poetry’s more appropriate.

          Finally: who is the Robert Frost of poets now?  I suspect that if there is one, it’s Billy Collins, who used his time as Poet Laureate to do whatever he could to democratize poetry (as did one of his recent predecessors, my former teacher Robert Pinsky — an almost-candidate for Frost-ness himself). Billy was named “the most popular poet in America” by the New York Times, and he read a poem to Congress in the wake of 9/11, and he’s just got that “thing” that says “respect me.”

          The only other option, in my mind (I may be missing others, of course) is Maya Angelou. Whatever I think of her poetry (hint: not much), there are many who love it and consider it valuable. She read at Clinton’s inauguration, and she’s frequently in the press for her comments on everything from women’s rights to Tyler Perry. And she, too, definitely has that “thing.”

          Besides those two folks: I’m open to suggestions. 🙂

          • I never said people could name them.  You said I was conflating the two forms.  I was making the point that they’re all moving back and forth regularly.  In some cases, names can be familiar as a result.  

            And I say again, I’m not looking at this through friends and acquaintances.  I’m talking about audience members whom I’ve only ever met after shows, patrons at bookstore events, students from the college here, people we’ve talked to in government and industry as potential sponsors who otherwise didn’t know us.  More often than not, if they recognized a playwright’s name, it wasn’t from the Humana Festival–which is well publicized in these parts–but because of tv.  They weren’t naming names from memory, they were reacting to names we’d mention.

            But I do think they’re more representative of the American public than anyone writing here.

            Of the two questions, I bet you’d get plenty of dead playwrights as well.  In the past, I’ve had students name Sondheim as a playwright.  Angelou would be likely for the poet question thanks to the Clinton inauguration and appearing on Oprah.  I still don’t think Jimmy Carter would be on the radar.

            And again, I never said a playwright couldn’t write a good speech–goodness knows there are plenty who can do that–but it wouldn’t be presenting our art form in the way a poet or a musician can in the same forum.  In a setting like that, a playwright, a novelist and an essayist are interchangeable. 

            I’m not knocking gravitas, but I think we (as an art form) already have enough.  Theatre is intimidating to a lot of folks as a result.  Again, I know this from studying audiences here and in the region.  We could stand to be more open and “of the people.”

            I think I’m with you on Robert Pinsky.  Billy will get there, I don’t doubt.  Would be nice to think Muldoon’s at that level–he certainly is within the literary world.  (Honestly, I’m more curious about the poetry question right now.  Who else is out there working at that level?)

          • This tiny window is almost impossible to comment in. 🙂

            “I’m talking about audience members whom I’ve only ever met after shows, patrons at bookstore events, students from the college here, people we’ve talked to in government and industry as potential sponsors who otherwise didn’t know us.” That’s my point. It’s not really a broad sample; they’re already selected by their interest in theater and the arts.

            I was only calling out the conflation because I wanted to be clear that most folks will think of them as television writers, no matter what else they do. But I think we’ve figured that out.

            I hear you re: intimidating people. But is gravitas intimidating, or is it commanding? There’s a fine line, to be sure, but I lean toward the latter.

            Who else is on that level, poetically? Mark Strand, I think, though I don’t prefer his work. Jorie Graham. Allen Grossman, though he’s retired from the public eye. Adrienne Rich, to be certain. I’ll have to give it more of a think…

          • Tiny, tiny window.

            Patrons, yes.  Students, potential sponsors and government folks, not so much.  The students are a general mass, and the others are people we’ve cold-called, not people who’ve sought us out.

            I guess I tend to see gravitas as Sam the Eagle more than anything.  I think where our president shines is when he’s human, not when he’s turning on the gravitas.

            Suddenly want to find that Bedard the Eagle photo…

          • Mostly just replying to play with the really, really ridiculously tiny window.

            Man, is this tiny. Does it get tinier?

            I think I think of gravitas as Wilford Brimley. A bit of a twinkle in the eye, in addition to the seriousness, when needed.

            SO TINY.

          • IT’S LIKE A CHICLET NOW!

          • I literally cannot see what I’m typing!

          • OMG, it’s just a line of single letters now!

          • But it doesn’t get any smaller than this… or does it? This is the Zeno’s paradox of comment forms. It always gets halfway smaller… but never vanishes!

  • Steve

    I think there’s a big difference between gravitas (dignity, seriousness, solemnity of manner) and imprinting on the cultural consciousness. The first is very much Sam the Eagle and probably not nearly as important as we think it is. The second speaks to how deeply an artform affects the population. How much it changes us, as individuals and as a culture.

    And, yes, these playwrights working in TV have a far greater impact than any living poet today. But I don’t know the names of the writers of most of my favorite shows. And (terrible for a playwright, I know, but…) I don’t make a point of looking them up. Which is fine. Their work makes a lasting impact on me regardless. Even though they hold little in the way of gravitas.

    • You guys seem to be dismissing Sam the Eagle in a way I don’t get. I like him. I also like gravitas and wish we had more of it.

      But I do agree: that’s a very critical difference you’ve identified. Imprinting on the cultural consciousness is a nice phrase, too.


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