Packer's Upper School students offered a hilarious and timely performance of Urinetown this fall.
Arts Department Head and Urinetown Director Ali Boag reflected on the production:
What are we prepared to pay for, and how much is too much to hand over for it? Many - most? - of our basic requirements as human beings have been monetized to some extent. Health care, obviously, heat, shelter, food and - as you will see explored tonight - water. Even our desires have been monetized; Google and Amazon and Instagram and the rest curate our clicks and swipes so that we are instantly offered goods and services that match our previous purchases and interests in order to make us buy more stuff to maintain the system. Our screens offer bespoke capitalism. When it comes to water, of course, we have no choice; we have to take it in (as with food) and we have to let it out (ditto). Urinetown asks how far we are prepared to allow this necessary function to provide profit for the powerful. The Urine Good Company charges a fee to pee - the people want to pee for free; that is the entire premise of the show and it is not hard to feel that, as bladders fill up and wallets empty, we too would be on the side of ‘the Poor’.
And yet. As we know, things are rarely as simple and straightforward as we want them to be. The good do not always end happily and the bad unhappily, as Oscar Wilde’s glib definition of fiction suggests. Sometimes it’s complicated. Urinetown is complicated. Positive thinking, looking at the sky, following your heart ... what happens when these superficially admirable things become as toxic as the corruption they seek to replace? Can soundbites and mantras really provide ‘long term solutions’ to global crisis? Appealing as the idea that we have inside us all we could ever need is, thirst, hunger, enforced migration, rising tides, and extreme weather all challenge this wishful thinking and force us to question what we want to be true.
Urinetown holds that it is much easier to dismiss the slogans and chants of those on the opposing side than to question the efficacy of our own comforting rallying cries. The musical suggests that discernment is the greatest virtue, necessary lest, as the poet William Stafford warns us, we end up ‘following the wrong god home’.
Thanks to: the Arts Department for all their support, Elizabeth Hastings, our friends in the Front Desk and Maintenance teams, Maria Nunes and the Upper School Office, Raoul Brown for publicity, Louis Minsky for tickets, our wonderful Ushers for their work, and Derek Lee Ragin, as ever ...
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