Culture, Sex & Gender

Gayest Person Ever on Art as Tikkun Olam

Joel DerfnerJoel Derfner, author of Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever, keeps a blog. (Who doesn’t?) In today’s post, he reflects on his parents’ work as civil rights and workers’ rights activists in light of his own life working in the arts.

So I grew up in an atmosphere in which working to make the world a better place (in Hebrew, tikkun olam—”the healing of the world”) wasn’t just a virtue; it was an imperative.
I am therefore somewhat ambivalent about having gone into the theater; in a way, the fact that I’m not in a third-world country working to create food distribution systems makes me feel like a moral failure. (When I’m at my most self-loathing, I say, “My parents secured black people the franchise, and I write pretty music that makes upper-middle-class white people feel nice.”)
But my self-loathing aside, the fact is that theater does have the power to inspire its audience to tikkun olam; actually, we seem to be getting closer to measurable evidence that it does. more

I’m a big proponent of the need for art, even (or perhaps especially) in times of crisis when art feels like the farthest thing from a priority. But can it be tikkun olam? Read the entire post and see if you’re convinced.

3 thoughts on “Gayest Person Ever on Art as Tikkun Olam

  1. Ah. I read the post in full.
    I’m not sure if a play can be considered an instrument of tikkun olam but it sure can be a part of a larger movement that motivates people to want to change the world into a peaceful and ethical place for all of it’s inhabitants.

  2. My ideas on the effectiveness on art as tikkun olam were completely changed by the Laramie Project. One of the creators wrote that when they heard about the murder of Matthew Shepherd, the theatre company asked what they could do. And they ended up by giving this amazing voice to everyone in Laramie, a living piece of art that was more than a documentary but an active attempt to heal. So many people that never felt this murder or others like it have cried because of that play.
    Art DOES something, does something real, and hopefully something reparative. Or at least it can.

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