Command Performance: An Actress in the Theater of Politics

Command Performance: An Actress in the Theater of Politics

Command Performance: An Actress in the Theater of Politics

Command Performance: An Actress in the Theater of Politics

Synopsis

Full of amusing anecdotes and profiles of celebrities, this charming, opinionated, and wise memoir of Jane Alexander's tenure at the National Endowment of the Arts brings humor and human dimension to the politics of art and the art of politics. of photos.

Excerpt

"You gonna fund pornography?" the senator barked at me across the vast expanse of government desk, made all the more intimidating by his diminutive size, or perhaps I was the one who was shrinking in my chair. Strom Thurmond had been South Carolina's senator for forty years. Over and over again he had been returned to office. He had a reputation for getting things done for his constituents, whether it was a tobacco issue or defense or a local favor. Call Strom--he'll take care of it.

As I sat before this taut, leathery gnome of a man with hair a color not found in nature, I couldn't help but admire his fortitude. At ninety he was still donning jogging shorts and doing a daily turn around Capitol Hill. He was a survivor, and now he was going for the gold. He was determined to be the oldest sitting senator in the history of that August body. His one-hundredth birthday was just around the corner, and neither infirmity nor inability was going to stop him. The Guinness Book of World Records was waiting.

"You gonna fund pornography?" His question to me was flung out like a glove slapping the ground. I rose weakly to the challenge and responded that the National Endowment for the Arts did not fund obscenity, that obscenity was considered unprotected speech. He said he didn't care what the Endowment did, he wanted to know what I thought.

I said, somewhat grandly, that I was an artist, that as an artist nothing human was alien to me. It was a phrase I had pondered a lot in the past, a phrase originally attributed to the Roman playwright Terence in 350 B.C. As I said it, images of the fall of the Roman Empire arose in my mind.

"Aren't you a moral woman?" Thurmond shot back.

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