Martin Kushner: And even if some part of them knows it isn’t, it’s a vicarious experience. Once again, there’s a reason for the popularity for all these shows. Soap operas have been in mass media for seventy years! And I don’t pretend to know the reasons even though in fact I did teach for about 5 years, the history of popular American culture in another college. If I was still teaching that at this particular moment I would probably be looking into and trying to analyze this phenomenon even more. The appetite for entertainment that is -people like to see something that in part on one hand to feel superior to, there’s a lot of theater that is staged -it is staged.
In some of the early days of the circus and there were freak shows such as the bearded lady, midgets/little people — like the munchkins from the Wizard of Oz — the side shows were a huge part of the circus, which is still going on and it still tours, but it’s more like a Broadway show now. But in the past, people went to see these side shows! The freaks! And there’s even a movie from the ’30s called “Freaks” where the whole cast was deformed and it was a masterpiece because the director actually got them to perform. So what I’m saying is that the appetite for entertainment is that people like to see something that I think in part on one hand to feel superior to. Like when I turn on Jerry Springer, I go, “Oh, my god!” but he’s a ringmaster and he even says that! Plus I know some people that have been on reality TV and they’re coached, they’re given alcohol in the green room before or whenever, I mean there’s a lot of theater that’s staged. It IS theater.
Larissa Drekonja: And to be on a reality TV, you have to be an exhibitionist, you have to be somewhat eccentric and narcissistic, and you can’t be all that intelligent either I think.
Martin Kushner: But I sometimes ask myself, if somebody called me up and said that they would put me on a reality show, I would not just instantly say no because I was an actor and there is a part of me that is a performer. And the culture tells us that’s what is what will actually make you famous — whatever is in you that can take you from today you’re a nobody to tomorrow you’re a star.
Larissa Drekonja: And also what happens to the other contestants who don’t win the prize? If is just a fake promise of stardom?
Martin Kushner: And the audience in a sense are rooting against people — and one of the actors said I find that I’m waiting for somebody to break down in tears and then I laugh. Does this make her a terrible person or is there something about this form that brings out something else? I don’t know if it’s anything different, it’s just an extension is all I’m saying. But this play is different because I think it wrestles with that fact that we’re becoming more and more detached from reality as a culture because what are we supposed to believe? The only way I get my information is from the sources that we all do, and how do we know that any of them are not mediated in a way? That’s the other thing in this play. It’s kind of boring to say we’re in a corporate culture, we’ve heard it a thousand times, but ultimately this play is about how the shows are all about ratings.
Larissa Drekonja: And it’s not like in sports where the best athletes win, in reality TV the best one doesn’t win, it’s actually the weakest one — the one that sells out the most, dares the most, sells their whole soul to the devil in a sense. This medium does not award the best, smartest person.
Martin Kushner: It’s simply the one who can play the game the best. I sometimes even it to the SAT because if you know the strategy, that’s what people pay $1500, if their family has the money to, take the training, because it is as much strategy as it is knowledge. And it’s my own bias because I’ve been a teacher, but colleges are cutting it out as a requirement because it’s sets up sort of an unfair playing field. So again it’s not the best necessarily, it’s the one who can play the game the best and that might mean a zillion compromises. The audience is then involved in that and internally maybe making some mental compromises as they watch, and that could be corrupting.
Larissa Drekonja: Like if that one wins, and that one becomes recognized, then what are we as a culture turning into?
Scallywag: What do you think identity is today and how do you preserve it? How is our culture at large tempered with the idea of identity?
Larissa Drekonja: Because of the social networking, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, everybody has a little piece of their own reality, their own public persona that they invent for themselves. It really exposes the weird ones out. Also the play deals with totalitarian issues, it’s your being watched like on Big Brother. The identity being presented to you by someone on one of those sites, they expose themselves what they think best of themselves, it’s sort of like a double-edged sword. Like when I see somebody’s Facebook page and there’s certain things that they write about themselves I’m like “oh, my? Why?” In a sense, it’s the way the country treats privacy, especially after 9/11, it invades your privacy in the name of security, like with Bush’s Patriot Act, people are more self-aware.
Martin Kushner: So for a lot of what passes for identity these days is presentation. Presentation of self, whether it’s how you go for an interview, how you portray yourself online, in a sense you’re creating a persona-whether you realize it or not. The counter thing that’s also trying to infuse the culture is the question of authenticity. Can you really be authentic and at the same time there’s all this opportunity to present yourself.
Larissa Drekonja: That was invented in the ’50s with the invention of managerial force in America, the cubes and you have to act a certain way…