09/16/2010 02:56 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

All the World's a Stage: National Identity

National identity. We have flags that symbolize it, wars and struggles that forge it, and stories, by way of theatre, to articulate it. Whether it's a South African children's tale, an Irish story of the Easter Rising of 1916, or the drama of an Mexican family in America beset by immigration woes, each production confirms theatre's ability to not just perpetuate national identity but in so doing, become a vital component of it, as a generator of universal themes that impact everyone, everywhere, anytime.


WHAT: Jock of the Bushveld - The Musical, written by Deon Opperman and Sean Else, based on the story by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick
WHERE: The Mandela at the Joburg Theatre Complex, Johannesburg
WHEN: September 4 - October 10, 2010

For the first time in history an original South African family musical based on the classic story Jock of the Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick is coming to the stage. Jock of the Bushveld - The Musical has been two years in the making and faithfully tells the beloved South African story of the dog with the heart of a lion. The story that millions around the world loved as a child, and whose children will love too, comes alive on stage through a most special application of the magic of musical theatre yet seen in South Africa.


WHAT: The Plough and the Stars, by Sean O'Casey
WHERE: The Abbey Theatre, Dublin
WHEN: July 21 - September 26, 2010

Set in a tenement house, against the backdrop of the Easter Rising in 1916, The Plough and the Stars is both an intimate play about the lives of ordinary people and an epic play about ideals and the birth of a nation. Amidst the tumult of political upheaval, Jack and Nora Clitheroe are 'like two turtle doves always billing and cooing', much to the ridicule of their bustling neighbours. But when Ireland calls, Jack must choose between love for his wife and duty to his country. Heartbreaking, disturbing and very funny, The Plough and the Stars is an historic play that every generation needs to see. At this time of national crisis, when the principles and ideals of the proclamation and the founding of the Republic are, more-than-ever, under consideration, it is an important play for the Abbey Theatre to present once again.


WHAT: "La Victima,"
WHERE: The Los Angeles Theatre Company, directed by Jose Luis Valenzuela, written by El Teatro de la Esperanza, produced by the Latino Theater Company
WHEN: September 30 - October 31, 2010

To celebrate its 25th Anniversary LTC revisits their first production presented at LATC in 1986. Current immigration debate and Arizona's recent anti-immigrant legislation makes the production as relevant today as it was then. This Chicano Theater classic is told through drama, comedy, music and dance in classic LTC style. This groundbreaking production looks at Mexican-U.S. immigration from a historical yet intimate perspective of a mother and son.

Given our current script of political chicanery, economic malfeasance, and environmental farce, all the world, cliché or not, is a stage. For proof look no further than to Google News, CNN, the Christian Science Monitor, or, last but not least, the Huffington Post. Whether or not you agree with William Wordsworth's "The world is too much with us," it's undeniable that life presents too many loose ends. Live theatre ties up loose ends and, unlike cinema, it doesn't look over its shoulder toward a pre- or a sequel. It offers a full experience: the lights go up, the curtains raises, a story is told, the actors step out of their characters and face us as people, just like you and I. Now that's closure, not to mention inspiration, education, and consolation.

"All The World's a Stage," a regular feature exclusive for The Huffington Post, will span the globe, from San Diego to New Brunswick, from London to Tel Aviv and down to Sydney, covering everything from regional repertory to national theatre companies. In no way encyclopedic, it will function a voltage tester: what's going on here, what's up over there. In process more a soupcon, in content usually grouped thematically, it will remind those who already know - and proselytize those who don't - that live theatre is as much a source of higher truth as it is a font of entertainment. Even if you don't live near the particular productions cited, it is the aim of this monthly digital lintel planted over the HP's Arts portal to pique your interest, to suggest, politely but adamantly, that, to quote John Lennon, while life might be what happens when you're making other plans, live theatre is what happens when you buy a ticket.

Whether your tastes run from Shakespearean tragedy to barroom melodrama, from Ibsen to Durang, from decked-out, strike up the band productions in lavish musical halls to the evisceration of the psyche in bare bones black box venues; whether you want to have your heart tugged, your spirits lifted, your prospect on the human condition darkened or at least twittered, you can find it in live theatre. There's a troop and a trope for every taste, for every wallet, for every age, for every cause.

James Scarborough is an art, theatre, and film critic. He's a former member of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle. He studied art history at Berkeley and the Courtauld Institute at the University of London and has published essays and art criticism for such publications as Apollo, Frieze, Art in America, Flash Art, art+text, New Art Examiner, Art Monthly, and Art Press and has written numerous exhibition catalogue essays. His recent collected writings can be found at and at