In the context of political maneuvering on budgetary and ideological issues, the role of government in fostering the arts has become a hot topic in recent months throughout the United States. Americans for the Arts advocates for public funding by showing a clear relationship between economic prosperity and investment in the arts. On the other hand, many people oppose any form of public support for the arts, a position clearly demonstrated by Kansas governor Sam Brownback in June when he stripped the Kansas Arts Commission of its entire budget and laid off all of its employees. It is in this heated debate that Rhubarb Theater Company presents its production of Nashville playwright Valerie Hart’s Rising & Falling. The play will run August 12–20, 2011 at the Darkhorse Theater (4610 Charlotte Ave.).
Hart’s Rising & Falling explores the complexities and controversies surrounding the meaning and value of public art in the context of commemorating the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Rather than dealing with the attacks and their consequences directly, Rhubarb Theater Company Artistic Director Trish Crist explains that Hart’s play “is challenging, beautiful, and very thought-provoking around a key aspect of 9/11 that has nothing to do with terrorists.” The story of the play deals with a controversy immediately following the events of September, 2001, in which public funds were used to erect a statue that many people in the community found offensive, ultimately leading to the statue’s removal only eight days later. Playwright Valerie Hart says that Rising & Falling is “a play about art set against one of the largest tragedies of our time.”
Rising & Falling promises to be an important work because it seeks to move beyond the more sentimental and spectacular elements of commemorating 9/11 and instead focuses its attention on the multifaceted interrelationships between collective trauma, artistic expression, and public ritual at play in contemporary American society. In a country where public memorials have become saturated with pop music anthems, pyrotechnics, and bumper stickers, the Nashville community welcomes such a subtle, thoughtful, and nuanced consideration of 9/11’s continuing influence on public consciousness.
Performances Wednesday through Saturday begin at 7:30 p.m. Sunday matinee on August 14 begins at 2:30 p.m. All tickets $12.00.
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