I once worked at a small Wyoming high school in a poor school district. Not poor in terms of educational opportunity, but poor in finances. I was one of only two English teachers, and ended up, by default, being the theater director. Because my budget was such that I could afford a play, but no sets, props or costumes, I ended up writing several plays, one that was actually quite successful, and learned a bit more about theater, despite having been involved in all aspects of theater most of my life. And oh, what I could have done with $700,000.00 dollars!
Writing a good play, particularly a musical, is very, very hard. Writing a good play that is financially successful is ridiculously hard. Perhaps the most important thing, beyond creating great, and catchy music, is creating compelling characters and a story that resonates in the soul. Therefore, I was amazed to hear of the failure of a play in the grandest traditions of failed plays, and all on the taxpayer’s dime. Fox News has the story:
The curtain has come down on Climate Change: The Musical and reviews of the taxpayer-funded play about global warming are downright icy.
The play, which is actually entitled ‘The Great Immensity,’ and was produced by Brooklyn-based theater company The Civilians, Inc. with a $700,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, ended its run early amid a storm of criticism from reviewers and lawmakers alike. It opened a year late, reached just five percent of its anticipated audience and likely fell short of its ambitious goal of informing a new generation about the perceived dangers of man-caused climate change.
“The Great Immensity?” Hmm. One might be tempted to think that a bit grandiose, but perhaps I’m just being picky:
Despite fine performances, the musical mystery tour is an uneasy mix of fact and credulity-stretching fiction. It’s neither flora nor fauna,’ New York Daily News reviewer Joe Dziemianowicz wrote in a review at the time. ‘[The] songs — whether about a doomed passenger pigeon or storm-wrecked towns — feel shoehorned in and not, pardon the pun, organic.’
The play, which featured songs and video exploring Americans’ relationships to the environment, opened in New York in April with a three-week run before going on a national tour that was supposed to attract 75,000 patrons. But it stalled after a single production in Kansas City, falling short of the lofty goals outlined in a grant proposal. It was envisioned as a chance to create ‘an experience that would be part investigative journalism and part inventive theater,’ help the public ‘better appreciate how science studies the Earth’s biosphere’ and increase ‘public awareness, knowledge and engagement with science-related societal issues.
Uh…right. So it was a musical about global warming and such. But it did, apparently have characters:
According to a plot description on the theater company’s website, ‘The Great Immensity’ focuses on a woman named Phyllis as she tries to track down a friend who disappeared while filming an assignment for a nature show on a tropical island. During her search, she also uncovers a devious plot surrounding an international climate summit in Auckland, New Zealand.
The description touts the play as ‘a thrilling and timely production’ with ‘a highly theatrical look into one of the most vital questions of our time: How can we change ourselves and our society in time to solve the enormous environmental challenges that confront us?
Well, of course! How could a musical amounting to a mixture of warmist propaganda and Marxist agitprop possibly fail to thrill and warm the heart? The standing ovations must have gone on forever, but apparently not in Congress:
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, said the dramatic debacle was a waste of public money.
‘There is no doubt that the Great Immensity was a great mistake,’ Smith told FoxNews.com. ‘The NSF used taxpayer dollars to underwrite political advocacy dressed up as a musical. And the project clearly failed to achieve any of its objectives.
The NSF apparently thinks all of the data isn’t in on The Great Immensity. They told Fox:
This particular project just concluded in August and the final report has not yet been submitted to NSF. Final reports are due to NSF within 90 days following expiration of the grant. The final report will contain information about project outcomes, impacts and other data.
Ah! Of course! Project outcomes, impacts and other data. Well, let’s see: its opening played three weeks and it closed at its first venue on the road. Virtually no one saw it, and it was panned by virtually every critic. So, impact on art: essentially zero. Impact on the environment: essentially zero, if we don’t count the carbon produced in putting on the show and putting it on the road. Outcome: major flop. Other data: what?
The universal panning the show received should not be underestimated. Theater critics tend not to be staunch conservatives; for them to turn their backs on the progressive messaging apparently inherent in the play, it must have been truly awful, so awful they found themselves forced to judge it based on its artistic (lack of) merits rather than progressive good intentions, unicorn farts and happy wishes.
Hope and change, fundamental transformation, and your tax dollars at work in the age of Obama, on a not-so immense scale, except in wasting taxpayer dollars.