On December 12th, POV aired Academy Award-winning filmmaker Freida Lee Mock’s latest film, Wrestling With Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner. Viewers wrote in with questions about the film for Ms. Mock via email and via blog comments. You can read Part I of Ms. Mock’s answers here. The following is Part II of her answers to viewer questions.
Question: First of all, I thank you for your film; it was outstanding! I laughed and I cried. As a resident of Wisconsin and a teacher, I struggle with the lack of exposure to the arts that we see in our state. (The same lack of exposure holds true for many other areas – basically any state not on the east coast.) While it is true that many works can be accessed electronically, it is impossible for both children and adults to experience the immediacy of live theater that presents the works of Tony Kushner and others like him. Do you feel it is the responsibility of artists to bring their work to a larger audience? Could this be realistically done in a way that would be financially advantageous to the artists? Or will the majority of the country continue to be forgotten by the important artists of our time?
Freida Lee Mock: I feel that it’s the responsibility of the artist to tell the truth and to be true to himself. How that translates to an audience, and the size of that audience, is dependent on many factors. Certainly we all recognize that the mass media — movies, television and now the Internet — are vehicles for reaching a larger audience than can be done through live theater (which include drama, opera and ballet). I don’t feel that the majority of the country will be “forgotten” as long as local organizations support the arts and seek ways to bring works to their communities. In other words, regional and local theater can often draw wonderful talent to mount “great works of art.” That has certainly been the case in the past, the present and I hope it will continue to be so in the future.
Question: I wonder if you could share some suggestions for younger playwrights that you and Mr. Kushner would point to for younger audiences who are interested in seeing plays written by people of our generation speaking to issues relevant to us today.
Mock: All artists need an enthusiastic audience to sustain themselves. If younger audiences want to see and hear works that are resonant, a great start would be to seek out emerging playwrights and artists in your community and volunteer to become part of the team to help bring the work to the community. There are infinite things a devoted fan can do to help produce a play or project. Volunteer!