The Columnist, is playing at Manhattan Theater Club, starring John Lithgow at Joseph Alsop. First off, Lithgow is such an incredible actor that watching him is one of the joys of live performances. What I liked about the play is not only his performance but the story.
Joseph Alsop was not only one of the most influential journalists of an era that does not exist anymore, he was a closeted gay man in a time when it made more sense to get married for appearnces. Joseph did just that. What he also did was write a column everyday that appeared in over 300 newspapers. He had the ear of President Kennedy and Johnson as well as many others in high powered positions. His home had an ever ending rotating dinner party of the all the prominent people in Washington and across the country.
What is interesting about the play is not just learning more about Alsop and his brother, Stewart who was also a journalist and wrote for the Herald Tribune and the Saturday Evening Post but you watch a period of history that completely changed how things were done and that they are no longer. Even the hemlines change over the course of the play.
In the 50's journalists were just as tightly glued to the politicans as the lobbiest are today. Journalists were the voice of knowledge. They relied on the top elite people they knew to provide them with the data they needed. Then the world changed, Kennedy was killed and Vietnam took over the American psyche. Alsops demise was that he did not believe in what the journalists in the ground were seeing, he ignored the college students anger, he did not see change coming. At the heart of the matter, he was a staunch Republican set in his conservative ways and the combination of that and being a gay man made for a very angry person as he got older.
There are stilll highbrow parties taking place in Georgetown, there are still journalists that are friendly with Senators and even Presidents but the media takes place in newspapers, on blogs and all over the Internet for everyone to read. It is diverse, it is opinionated and there is no guardian at the gate.
I am sorry Josh did not come with us to see the play. As he is studying American history, I think he would have really liked the story about Alsop, as he was a pivotal part of our history that is most definitely in the past.