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The Masque


Theatre and Performance Studies


Director's Note

"To further the appreciation of culture among all the people, ... this is one of the fascinating challenges of these days, " according to President John F. Kennedy. Thirty years later, the American nation continues to be presented with the same unrelenting, and seemingly insurmountable challenge. What will be the fate of culture in America-- survival or extinction?

This is the question which provides the springboard for Tina Howe's Museum. The primary purpose of the drama you are about to see is not to set forth a narrative. (Boy does not meet girl, and Howe seems deliberately ambiguous as to whether or not anyone lives happily ever after). Howe dispenses with conventional plot devices and concentrates on delivering a social commentary on the state of American culture.

You are about to meet 44 individuals who are spending the day at a museum. These characters are people we recognize as our friends, neighbors, classmates, colleagues, or even reflections of ourselves. But who they are is not as significant as what they represent; that is, their purpose is to demonstrate how people relate to art and artists (and vice versa). In fleshing out these relationships, Howe raises a number of questions about commercialism, mystification, and artist worship.

More importantly, however, Howe questions the guardianship of American culture. Are we guarding, respecting, treasuring art, and on a larger scale, our culture? (Assuming, of course, that our current art and culture are worth guarding ... ). Or have we become permissible and negligent in allowing commercialism to trespass on the grounds of our culture?

Howe's Museum communicates a powerful warning about the imminent danger of destroying what is left of our creative efforts. The play ends on a harrowing note ..... Will Howe's warning fall on deaf ears? One thing is certain: if and when a cultural dark age commences, the cry for help will come too late ...

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