Kuros Charney’s “The Humanist” Questions the Value of the Humanities

18 Mar

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My friend and I attended Kuros Charney‘s play “The Humanist” the other night, and it resonated ever so profoundly. Here’s the synopsis:

A comedy about the corporatization of higher education. When his old flame becomes his new boss, a classics professor at a public university must fight to keep his job in the face of state budget cuts and profit motives, while defending the humanities as the foundation of democracy.
The play was put on at Urban Stages and starred J. Anthony Crane, Kate Jennings Grant, Lipica Shah, and Dylan Chalfy. They all have great acting chops, as evidenced not only by their performance in this reading of the play, but in their former credits. In particular, Shah gave a standout performance, appearing so natural in her role of the student that at times I forgot she was acting.
Kuros, a writer I know from living in the same neighborhood in New York City, explores weighty issues of the purpose of education; culture as both an ethnic (read: immigrant) and socio-economic (read: aspirational) descriptor; and relationships between administrators, professors, and students. “The Humanist” shows both the plight of idealistic, intelligent students and their wearying professors in an economic environment in which success needs to be quantifiable. For as much depth as is in the two-hour play, it was also full of humorous and tender moments.
As a graduate of a liberal arts college who studied the humanities — English major FTW! — who also happened to study the classics (I studied Classical Greek at Pomona College), and then went on to get my MFA in creative writing (nonfiction), I believe strongly in the importance of education for education’s sake and art for art’s sake, and yet that’s because I view both education and art as transformational, empowering, and purposeful. I believe that in the long run, education and the arts are just as important to democracy as anything else. Capitalist business models have their place. It’s important to be able to put food on the table. But I believe we can do that while still valuing the studying of Classical Greek.
But maybe I’m a bit biased. 😉
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2 Responses to “Kuros Charney’s “The Humanist” Questions the Value of the Humanities”

  1. annapauthor March 18, 2015 at 7:47 am #

    I share that bias. 🙂 I was an English major, too, though I am clueless as to what FTW means . . . for the wonderfulness? flourishing tremendously well? fleeing tedium wildly? In any case, “The Humanist” sounds like a play worth seeing and I hope it turns up elsewhere in the U.S.

  2. Linda March 19, 2015 at 3:03 pm #

    Me too — I believe the Ancient Greeks actually had a word for this — Paedia — was the way I heard it pronounced and it translates to “learning for the sake of learning,” which they believed was the right way to view education.

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