George Santayana’ s oft-quoted aphorism—”Those who have cannot bear in mind the past will be condemned to repeat it”—has entered social ubiquity and become a cliché, paraphrased ad nauseam by simply politicians and philosophically-inclined college students. Still, the over-saturation of this sentiment would not make that any significantly less true, and American playwrights working in the past quarter from the twentieth 100 years seemed to be aware that. For example , the most representative imaginative movement in the era—postmodernism—is seen as an interest in representing and reinterpreting record on the stage. Unlike the Modernists with the first half the century, postmodernists did not view their forbears as artists to go beyond. Instead, that they innovated simply by broadcasting all their influences and interpolating all of them into fresh material. These types of playwrights understood that to adequately have an understanding of the present—the increasingly complicated contemporary world—they needed a deep understanding of the past. Moreover, they recognized the power of background memory, acknowledging that nostalgia can quickly get out of hand into a corrosive delusion and warp your view of the present. These kinds of characteristics are best exemplified simply by David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, and Suzan-Lori Parks’s Topdog/Underdog. Whilst none of them of the plays can be definitively defined as postmodern, their particular characters include a postmodern understanding of earlier times, recalling events differently and tailoring background to their personal needs in order to imagine better lives on their own. In Topdog/Underdog, Lincoln’s analysis of history can apply to a lot of the characters during these plays: “People like that they historical shit in a certain way. That they like it to unfold the way they folded it up. Neatly like a book. Certainly not raggedy and bloody and screaming” (Parks, 52). In the end, these plays suggest that while history is fungible, this cannot be outrun.
In Glengarry Glen Ross, Shelly Levene is swept up in a loving vision of his earlier self, a salesman who could area big consumers and big commissions. At the start of the play, however , he is old and washed-up, begging Williamson for the more encouraging leads. Characteristically, he referrals his past sales quantities, trying to move them off as a barometer of his current features: “April, Sept 1981. It’s me, inch he says, inches[…] Sixty-five, when we were there, with Glen Ross Farms? You call them downtown. The fact that was that? Good fortune? […] My personal stats for the people years? Bullshit… over that period of time…? Bullshit. That wasn’t fortune. It was skill” (Mamet, 17-18). Going additional, Shelley runs under an anachronistic understanding of the world. At the beginning of the enjoy, he is continue to holding on to the idea—however lightly—that his grow older gives him a hierarchal advantage and commands value, he does not realize that his age has had the opposite result, and provides essentially manufactured him outdated. For example , this individual tries to invoke his era when negotiating with Williamson, saying, “I’m older than you. A man receives a standing. On the street. How much does when your dog is up, what he truly does otherwise…” (Mamet, 24). His reasoning is additionally outdated, Levene does not recognize that Williamson is not concerned with about ancient notions of “reputation. inches Although Levene is convinced that he can a competent sales person who has been stained with a streak of bad luck, there is nothing inside the text to indicate that Williamson is wrong to reject him the leads. In fact , Levene’s nostalgia—his romanticization of past sales—is arguably grounded in more fictional works than fact. In the beginning of the play, Levene asks Williamson, “Nineteen eighty, eighty-one… eight-two… six months of eighty-two… whoms there? Who’s up presently there? ” (Mamet, 17). Williamson responds curtly and with confidence: “Roma, [followed by] Moss” (Mamet, 17). Levene’s conception of the past—the aspect of his character that gives him his self-confidence—compels him to steal the leads through the office. This kind of, of course , triggers his tragic downfall.
Angels in America: Millennium Approaches—first performed in 1991—is steeped in history: the enjoy is set during the Reagan-era, to some extent as a means of understanding the significant effect that the 1980s acquired the around the gay community, Roy Cohn and Ethel Rosenberg—two real-life historical figures—are characters in the play. Even more, Kushner can make it clear that Angels in the united states rehashes the past as a means of understanding the present and the long term. The hole in the ozone layer—one of the physical causes of Harper’s anxiety—is an objective correlative pertaining to the stress that the gay characters experience for instant future: in 1985, when the play is set, Reagan hadn’t even known the Helps crisis, a condition of plague-like proportions that made homosexuals feel more alienated by and declined by the contemporaneous American world. Roy—a closeted homosexual, or perhaps at the very least, bisexual—articulates this sense in a conversation with his doctor. He forbids his libido because he believes it would defile his musical legacy: “‘Gay, ‘ ‘homosexual, ‘ ‘lesbian, ‘ you think that they tell you whom a person sleeps with, but they dont tell you that. Like most labels, they refer to the one thing and something only: In which does a person so identified fit in the food chain? […] To somebody who doesnt fully grasp this, homosexual is actually I are because My spouse and i sleep with men, nevertheless this is incorrect. […] They are really men who also know no person, and whom nobody knows” (Kushner, 51). With this kind of, he is seeking hard to rewrite record. Later, Roy brags to Joe about how precisely he finessed the legal system to ensure that Ethel Rosenberg was sentenced to death. He says to Joe, “Was it legal? Fuck legal! ” (Kushner, 114). This kind of immorality comes to haunt Roy in the form of Rosenberg’s ghost, reminding the audience the importance of the earlier, and that it really is impossible to escape.
The importance of the past is most naturally present in Topdog/Underdog, the two-person drama that centers around African-American siblings named Lincoln and Presentation area. Although Leisure areas insists that the play is definitely entirely bereft of symbolism, it is hard to overlook the relevance of the two characters’ names. John Wilkes Booth’s killing of Abraham Lincoln is one of the most important situations in American history. Initially of the play, Lincoln searching for toward the near future, happy to be finished hustling three credit card monte. At some point, he declines back into the game—back in to his past—and history repeats itself, with Booth shooting Lincoln. Sales space, meanwhile, is another character that tries to edit history. For example , in the 1st scene, this individual tells Lincoln, “My new names 3-Card. 3-Card, first got it? […] Call me 3-Card from here upon out” (Parks, 19). They also interpret yesteryear differently, browsing their parents’ abandonment in distinct, opposition terms. When ever Lincoln says, “I don’t think that they liked us, ” Sales space immediately responds, “Naw. That aint it” (Parks, 67). They understand the past differently because they have to interpret this differently. That they thrive on the individual interpretations: Booth keeps positive by simply imagining that their father and mother loved them, Lincoln, on the other, stays grounded by with the knowledge that they did certainly not.
The past is important: it both equally informs and directs the present, people are constantly grappling with the implications of the earlier. These 3 plays show the complicated romance that most modern day people have with both American background their own personal histories. Days gone by is inescapable, yet, for growth, it needs to be transcended.