A ‘Prophecy’ Worth Watching by Chris Hedges

by Chris Hedges
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
June 14, 2010

Orson Welles and John Houseman were preparing to mount a production in June 1937 in New York City called “The Cradle Will Rock,” a musical written by Marc Blitzstein and set in “Steeltown USA.” The musical followed the efforts of a worker, Larry Foreman, as he attempted to unionize steelworkers. His nemesis was the heartless industrialist Mister Mister, who owned the steel mill and controlled the press, the church, local civic groups, politicians, the arts and the local university, where, as a trustee, Mister Mister made sure the pliant college president fired professors who did not laud the manly arts of war and capitalism. “The Cradle Will Rock” spared no one, from Mister Mister’s philanthropic wife and spoiled children to Reverend Salvation, who preached war in the name of Jesus, to feckless artists who devoted themselves to the cult of art. At one point the artists, along with Mister Mister’s wife, sing:


via Truthdig

Copyright © 2010 Truthdig

Chris Hedges spent two decades as a foreign reporter covering wars in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. He has written nine books, including Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (2009) and War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2003).





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6 thoughts on “A ‘Prophecy’ Worth Watching by Chris Hedges

  1. the way one supports the arts ..at least the way i do , becuase i am a professional musician …is if am short on gigs ..is just to perform on the streets.

    and encourage others to do the same . help get them gigs . form community . quid pro qou.

  2. As an artist myself, I can tell you how crippling it is to not be able to make your living doing your art. If you must have a day-job to live, that cuts heavily into the time you could be spending on your art.

    Nonetheless, even “part-time” or “volunteer” art can still be performed. If you can’t get a theater and charge for tickets, then do street-theater for free. If you can’t sell your poetry to publishers, publish it on the Internet. If you can’t get a steady gig playing your music, go out on the street corners and busk. And so on.

    Lack of financial support makes art difficult, but not impossible. It’s just a question of how much hardship you’re willing to endure to get your art out there.

    –Leslie < Fish

  3. I would come see the play in a heartbeat. I have not been to a play worth seeing in years. You are right about art organizations not doing anything controversial. I run the local symphony orchestra, and in order to srvive, we seek support from every business in the area, and many of our supporteres are extremely conservative. We scrupulously avoid controversy (and no mention of the lifestyles of some of our musicians). I am fortunate that most of what we do isn’t controversial.

    I live in Parkersburg, WV, where people are shocked to hear a former Israeli soldier say that the actions of both my countries (I am a dual citizen) are criminal. The prudent thing to do around here is keep your mouth shut., but I’m not so good at that.

    Back in the early 90’s, when my wife and I were living in Rochester, NY, there was a play about parallel experiences of Jewish and Palestinian women that was banned from being shown at the Jewish community center where it had originally been scheduled. Thanks to community actrivism and collaboration among the local Arab, progressive Jewish and Christian communities, it was shown at a local theater.

    I agree with you that we can’t rely on non-profit art organizations to present art that challenges conventional beliefs. I also have no optimism that we will change the public funding of the arts. However instead of lamenting, we need to develop community and political organizations that will take on the challenge of alternative theater and alternative art. Anyone for developing such an organization?

    Mac Lichterman, CPA
    President, River Cities Symphony Orchestra
    Former Member, Kibbutz Harel, Israel

    • How about opening a thrift store that supports the arts? To do so takes more business expertise–and patience–than I have, but I’m sure I wouldn’t be the only one choosing to donate goods for sale and volunteer time to keep it going.

      I know there’d have to be a charter of some kind and maybe a Board to distribute the money made.

  4. I do not begrudge John Houseman doing work for Smith Barney at the end of his career any more than I begrudge Orson Wells for doing work for Gallo.

    Artists will alway need a “day job” if they are going to do good work on the side. I do not know if Houseman (or Wells) attempted to do any provocative work late in their careers, but if they did and were able to get Smith Barney or Gallo to “finance” it (indirectly) then that’s great — just as Sean Penn gets big Hollywood to finance his more powerful work, again, indirectly (perhaps the paycheck from CARLITO’S WAY helped to finance DEAD MAN WALKING or the money from THE INTERPRETER or 21 GRAMS helped to allow MILK to be made?).

    This piece is really about the commercial forces of pre-censorship PREVENTING the good work in theater from being done at all — a sad state of affairs.

  5. It is interesting that, as an old man, John Houseman did some commercials for a Wall Street brokerage house, Smith Barney. The ads ended with him saying, “Smith Baahr-ney. We make money the old fashioned way. We ‘eahrn’ it.”

    Apparently Mr. Houseman abandoned the principles of hid youth, since he was supporting those who made money from other people’s money in exchange for money.

    Perhaps it’s symbolic that the Statue of Liberty is a hollow metal shell as hollow as our democracy is.

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