Goal number one: We hope we make you laugh. The Cradle Will Rock is a musical comedy. It is supposed to be silly, zany, and often downright absurd.
But in addition to providing a release of joy through laughter, the Greeks believed that comedy should perform important social functions. As Peter Ustinov famously said, “Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.”
So as we laugh at these ridiculous, self-interested characters, we should also ask ourselves, “What is the object of the satire?” A kneejerk response might include “unchecked greed” or “unregulated capitalism.”
Of course, we should remember that this 1930s musical debuted during a time when workers enjoyed few protections. Among other hardships, workers’ lives included seven-day weeks, child labor, and unsafe working conditions.
But even today, recent social protests across the nation reflect contemporary concerns regarding the power of unions and economic fairness.
These are good discussions to have.
This said, I would passionately argue that tonight’s performance is not against business, or religion, or the press, or the arts, or academia, or any of the human institutions lampooned within the show. (For the record, I have been or am an active member of all five institutions!)
However, by creating ridiculously corrupt caricatures, composer Marc Blitzstein ultimately delivers an important message central to living with integrity in our broken world: we cannot love one another well if we sacrifice the welfare of people for money, power, or status.
Regardless of our political affiliations or our feelings towards unions, everyone in this room can embrace this vital message.
As James 1: 14 reminds us, “…each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” The Cradle Will Rock implores us not to give into this pervasive and destructive marker of collective brokenness. While the play comically dramatizes our human tendency to do so, thankfully, it also shows us an example of how we may and must resist.