Theater of Politics | The New York Times Close Up with Sam Roberts

Theater of Politics | The New York Times Close Up with Sam Roberts


♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪>>I’M SAM ROBERTS OF THE “NEW YORK TIMES.” WELCOME TO “THE NEW YORK TIMES CLOSE UP.” THEATRE AND POLITICS AND THE THEATRE IN POLITICS ARE FRONT AND CENTER TODAY. IN A MOMENT, WE’LL TALK WITH RENOWNED SHAKESPEARE SCHOLAR STEPHEN GREENBLATT, HERE TO DISCUSS HIS LATEST BOOK, “TYRANT: SHAKESPEARE ON POLITICS.” WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, A CANNY OBSERVER OF THE HUMAN CONDITION, WAS ALSO VERY POLITICALLY ASTUTE! THEN WE’LL BE JOINED BY “NEW YORK TIMES” PHOTOGRAPHER SARA KRULWICH. SHE’S BEEN ON STAFF SINCE 1979, AND COVERING THE THEATRE SINCE 1994. SHE WILL BE ONE OF THREE RECIPIENTS OF THIS YEAR’S TONY AWARDS HONORS FOR EXCELLENCE. MY TIMES COLLEAGUES DISCUSS THE WEEK’S LEAD ISSUES ON “THE BACK STORY” AND I’LL HAVE SOME ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS ON “CODA.” BUT FIRST, THE PULITZER PRIZE AND NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNING AUTHOR, STEPHEN GREENBLATT. HE’S THE JOHN COGAN UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR OF THE HUMANITIES AT HARVARD. HIS LATEST BOOK, “TYRANT: SHAKESPEARE ON POLITICS” HAS JUST BEEN PUBLISHED BY W.W. NORTON AND COMPANY. THIS IS A BOOK THAT YOU WERE THINKING ABOUT WRITING BEFORE THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION AND AS THAT ELECTION GOT CLOSER, YOU REALIZED IT WAS A BOOK YOU HAD TO WRITE.>>THAT IS TRUE. I HAVE BEEN THINKING ABOUT THE BOOK FOR DECADES BECAUSE SHAKESPEARE WAS AN UNUSUALLY CANNY OBSERVER OF POLITICS. I DIDN’T HAVE THE STRONG IMPULSE THAT I BEGAN TO FEEL IN THE MONTHS LEADING UP TO OUR ELECTION.>>WHAT HAPPENED THAT LED YOU TO WRITE THE BOOK?>>THERE WERE A SERIES OF DISRUPTIONS –>>SOME OF THEM CAME TRUE.>>I RESPECT THE DIFFERENCE OF OPINION ON THESE MATTERS. IT WAS THE DAILY DOSE OF SHOCK AND AWE, OF THE SURPRISES THAT THE RULES THAT I HAD ASSUMED WERE RULES THAT EVERYONE HAD, THAT WE WOULD HAVE FOREVER, THEY WERE NO LONGER APPLYING. I BEGAN TO FEEL DISORIENTED. CONFUSED, A LITTLE BIT, ABOUT HOW TO DEAL WITH THE CONSTANT NEWS. AT THAT MOMENT, I THOUGHT, LET ME GO BACK 400 YEARS AND THINK ABOUT THE CONTEMPORARY SITUATION THROUGH SOMEBODY ELSE’S EYES. THROUGH THE EYES OF THE MOST BRILLIANT PLAYWRIGHT IN THE LAST 2000 YEARS, WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.>>WHAT KIND OF PARALLEL DID YOU FIND?>>THERE ARE MANY MANY. NOT ONLY TO OUR OWN CONTEMPORARY SITUATION BUT TO WINDS THAT ARE BLOWING AROUND THE WORLD. IN HUNGARY AND THE PHILIPPINES, AND RUSSIA. TO THE RISE OF VERY STRONG AUTOCRATIC LEADERS WHO ARE INDIFFERENT TO THE WAY THE GAME WAS PLAYED FOR A VERY LONG TIME. SHAKESPEARE WAS DEEPLY INTERESTED IN, HOW DOES A WHOLE COUNTRY FALL INTO THE HANDS OF THE DISASTROUS LEADER?>>ALL YOU NEED IS 51%, OR IN THIS CASE 49%, TO DO THAT.>>SHAKESPEARE DID THINK OF IT IN TERMS OF ELECTION, WHICH IS VERY ODD BECAUSE HE DID NOT LIVE IN ELECTORAL DEMOCRACY. HE LIVED IN MONARCHY. WHEN HE TRIED TO THINK HIS WAY OUT OF THAT SITUATION, HOW DO PEOPLE GET OUT OF A NIGHTMARE, HE ALSO THOUGHT ABOUT ELECTIONS.>>IF SHAKESPEARE WERE AROUND TODAY, WOULD HE THINK DONALD TRUMP WORSE RICHARD THE THIRD?>>I DOUBT IT. WE LIVE IN A WORLD OF EXAGGERATED ACCUSATIONS AND DISTRESS. I THINK HE WOULD HAVE RECOGNIZED CERTAIN CHARACTERISTICS IN THE POLITICAL LIFE THAT WE ARE NOW LIVING, A CERTAIN KIND OF NARCISSISM, A CERTAIN INDIFFERENCE TO THE TRUTH. A RECKLESS BULLYING OF OTHERS. THESE WERE CHARACTERISTICS THAT HE ZEROED IN ON WHEN HE TRIED TO THINK ABOUT WHAT KIND OF PERSON DOES THIS. HE ALSO THOUGHT, WHO MAKES IT POSSIBLE FOR THAT PERSON.>>THAT IS A PARTICULARLY INTERESTING THING THAT YOU TRY TO GET IN THE BOOK, WHO WERE THE ENABLERS? WHO ARE THE PEOPLE WHO ALLOWED A RICHARD THE THIRD OR DONALD TRUMP TO COME TO POWER? HOW DO YOU RESIST OR DEPOSE THAT POWER?>>SHAKESPEARE THOUGHT THAT IT WASN’T THAT LARGE NUMBERS OF PEOPLE WERE FOOLED. HE THOUGHT MOST PEOPLE GOT IT. THAT IT ISN’T THAT THE WORLD WAS PULLED OVER THEIR EYES. THEY SAW VERY CLEARLY, OTHER THAN SMALL CHILDREN AND A HANDFUL OF IDIOTS. THEY SAW CLEARLY THAT THEY WERE DEALING WITH AN UNTRUSTWORTHY PERSON. THEY WERE WILLING TO GO WITH THESE QUALITIES BECAUSE THEY SAW, FOR A VARIETY OF DIFFERENT REASONS, THEY THOUGHT IT WAS IN THEIR INTEREST. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN IT HAPPENS?>>WHEN IT HAPPENS AND THEY SEE THE LIGHT AND REALIZED THEY WERE WRONG, HOW DO THEY CHANGE?>>SHAKESPEARE DOESN’T THINK THEY ALWAYS SEE THE LIGHT RIGHT AWAY. THERE IS A KIND OF HIGH THAT HAPPENS FOR A WHILE. WHEN THINGS GO WRONG, IT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO CHANGE. HE IS INTERESTED IN WHO COMES FORWARD TO SAY, STOP. HE IS INTERESTED IN SERVANTS, CIVIL SERVANTS. SERVANTS WHO SAY, I AM NOT GOING TO GO ALONG WITH THIS. THEY ARE SMALL NUMBERS AND THEY USUALLY SUFFER BEFORE THE SITUATION IS RESOLVED. SHAKESPEARE THOUGHT ABOUT HOW THIS MIGHT BE PREVENTABLE, IF IT WAS PREVENTABLE. HE THOUGHT ABOUT DIFFERENT OPTIONS. ASSASSINATIONS, FOR EXAMPLE.>>EXTREME.>>VERY EXTREME. HE THOUGHT IT WAS A TERRIBLE IDEA. HE THOUGHT IT WOULD HASTEN THE VERY THING THAT YOU ARE THINKING YOU WOULD AVOID. IF THAT WAS THE CASE, WHAT ELSE WOULD ALSO BE ABLE TO GET YOU OUT? SOME PEOPLE SPEAKING THE TRUTH. STANDING UP AND SAYING, I AM NOT GOING ALONG WITH THIS, I’M NOT GOING TO ALLOW YOU TO DO THIS. THAT ALSO DOESN’T WORK IN A MAGICAL WAY. AT THE END OF HIS LONG CAREER OF THINKING ABOUT THIS, SHAKESPEARE RETURNED TO THE IDEA OF ELECTIONS. ODDLY. HE THOUGHT, POLITICAL PROCESS. ORDINARY, UNHEROIC POLITICAL PROCESS BY VERY ORDINARY POLITICIANS, WHO ARE DETERMINED TO ENABLE PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IS GOING ON AND WHAT THEY CAN DO ABOUT IT, THAT MIGHT BE THE WAY UP.>>IT WOULD HAVE BEEN FAIRLY RADICAL IDEA.>>AN ASTONISHING IDEA.>>OTHER PARALLELS HAVE BEEN DRAWN. THE WASHINGTON POST REVIEW OF THE BOOK SAID, TRUMP MORE LIKE CALIBAN WITH A TWITTER ACCOUNT THAN RICHARD THE THIRD.>>I DON’T THINK DONALD TRUMP IS LIKE CALIBAN OR THE IDIOT QUOTE IN SYMBOLING. I DON’T THINK THAT CORRESPONDS TO MY SENSE OF WHAT IS GOING ON.>>WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHEN WE LOOK BACK HUNDREDS OF YEARS AND SEE SHAKESPEARE PLUMB THE DEPTHS OF PEOPLE LIKE THIS AND SEE THESE PARALLELS. DOES THIS MEAN THAT HUMAN NATURE DOESN’T CHANGE?>>IT DOES MEAN THAT THE WORLD WASN’T INVENTED LAST NIGHT. WE AREN’T ALONE. THESE ISSUES ARE NOT THE FIRST TIME THAT HUMANS HAVE CONFRONTED THESE ISSUES. OTHER VERY INTELLIGENT PEOPLE HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT THEM. IT DOESN’T SOLVE THE PROBLEM BUT TO ME IT CAN BE LIBERATING TO ESCAPE FROM THE CLOSED BOX OF OUR OWN PREOCCUPATIONS AND SEE THAT WE SHARE THE WORLD WITH OTHER PEOPLE WHO HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT THESE MATTERS DEEPLY.>>YOU ARE A RENOWNED SHAKESPEARE SCHOLAR, PEOPLE CLAMOR TO TAKE YOUR COURSE. WHEN YOU WERE FIRST EXPOSED TO SHAKESPEARE, YOU SAID IT LEFT YOU COLD. HOW DID YOU DEVELOP THIS AFFINITY?>>CERTAINLY BEING TAUGHT. I HAD AN EXPERIENCE, I DID NOT ENJOY IT. I WAS TOO YOUNG OR NAIVE TO UNDERSTAND WHAT WAS GOING ON. MAYBE THE TEACHER WASN’T SO CLEVER AT INTRODUCING 14-YEAR-OLDS TO “AS YOU LIKE IT.” I HAD A BRILLIANT TEACHER. IT IS CRUCIALLY IMPORTANT. IT ENABLES YOU TO ACCEPT YOUR LIMITATIONS AND BRING EVERYTHING THAT YOU HAVE A — TO THE TABLE. THAT REMAINS, NOW THAT I’M VERY FAR AWAY FROM MY JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL EXPERIENCE, IT REMAINS CRITICAL HERE. YOU DON’T PARK YOURSELF AT THE DOOR. YOU TAKE YOURSELF WITH YOU. YOU BRING YOUR OWN INTERESTS, ANXIETIES, AND IGNORANCE. YOU BRING IT AND TRY TO SITUATED IN RELATION TO THE PAST. YOU’RE NOT ALONE. YOU CAN DEAL WITH THE PAST. EVEN THAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT 400 YEARS AGO, IT IS NOT SO LONG AGO.>>ONE OF THE THINGS YOU TALKED ABOUT IS THE FACT THAT STUDENTS TODAY DON’T HAVE THE SAME KIND OF VERBAL ACUITY. THEY DO BRING SOMETHING ELSE TO THE TABLE, PERHAPS A VISUAL ACUITY OR SOMETHING DIFFERENT. IS THAT BETTER, WORSE, OR SIMPLY DIFFERENT?>>FROM MY PERSPECTIVE AS A LITERARY PERSON, IT IS A LITTLE WORSE. I RESPECT THE QUALITIES THAT ARE BREWING IN OUR CULTURE. IN CERTAIN WAYS, TELEVISION SERIALS SEEM TO ME GENUINELY SHAKESPEAREAN IN THEIR WAY TO DEVELOPE PROFOUND RELATIONSHIPS TO CHARACTERS AND SITUATIONS TEASED OUT OVER AN EPIC LENGTH OF INVESTIGATION. I THINK THESE ARE BRILLIANT.>>THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. HIS LATEST BOOK “TYRANT: SHAKESPEARE ON POLITICS” HAS JUST BEEN PUBLISHED BY W.W. NORTON AND COMPANY. COMING UP NEXT, NEW YORK TIMES THEATRE PHOTOGRAPHER SARA KRULWICH. ♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪>>WELCOME BACK. SHE’S USED TO BEING BEHIND THE LENS. NOW SHE’S BEING HONORED BY THE BROADWAY COMMUNITY FOR EXTRAORDINARY ACHIEVEMENT, ONE OF THREE RECIPIENTS OF A SPECIAL TONY AWARD ON JUNE 10. AS USUAL, SARA WILL ALSO BE COVERING IT. HOW DID YOU BECOME THE TIMES’ FIRST CULTURAL PHOTOGRAPHER?>>IT IS A ROUNDABOUT ANSWER. I HAD TWINS IN 1992. SOMEBODY HAD TO STAY HOME WITH THEM. I COULD NO LONGER HAD BEEN A NEWS PHOTOGRAPHER. I HAD BEEN JUMPING ON AIRPLANES AND COVERING CAMPAIGNS. IT DIDN’T WORK ANYMORE. I HAD EXTRAORDINARILY WONDERFUL ADMINISTRATORS OF MY DEPARTMENT. THEY FIGURED OUT THAT IF I COULD BE A CULTURE PHOTOGRAPHER, I WOULD BE COMPLETELY VALUABLE TO THE PAPER AND IT WORKED FOR ME AS WELL.>>TO BE A THEATRE PHOTOGRAPHER, THERE WAS ENORMOUS RESISTANCE FROM THE BROADWAY COMMUNITY. THEY WANTED THEIR OWN PICTURES.>>THE THEATER DID NOT HAPPEN RIGHT AWAY. THAT TOOK A COUPLE OF YEARS. I STARTED BEING A CULTURAL PHOTOGRAPHER AND I NOTICED I WAS COVERING ALMOST EVERYTHING BUT THEATER. THE TIMES HAD SUCH CLOUT IN THE THEATER WORLD. IT WOULD BE AS IF SPORTS ILLUSTRATED DECIDED TO NOT COVER SPORTS IN PHOTOS. IT WAS THE ONE PLACE THAT WE WERE COMPLETELY BARRED FROM ENTERING.>>IT WAS FASCINATING. YOU HAD A STORY IN THE TIMES EXPLAINING THAT THEATERS PUT OUT THEIR OWN STOCK PICTURES AND THEY HAD TO BE REVIEWED BY VIRTUALLY EVERYONE INVOLVED IN THE PLAY. THE ACTORS WANTED TO MAKE SURE THEY LOOK JUST RIGHT. EVERYONE ELSE HAD TO SIGN OFF ON THESE PICTURES. SO LETTING A STRANGER IN WHO WAS GOING TO TAKE THEM IMPROMPTU WAS A REALLY BIG STEP.>>IT STILL IS. EVERY SINGLE SHOW IS A DEBATE ABOUT WHETHER I CAN GET IN, ARE THE COSTUMES RIGHT, IS THE HAIR RIGHT. AM I GOING TO GIVE AWAY THE ENDING. EVERY TIME I AM ALLOWED INTO A SHOW, THERE HAS BEEN A BARGAIN AND I FEEL REALLY LUCKY THAT PEOPLE — I’M PRETTY MUCH IN EVERY SHOW THIS YEAR. THAT IS A MIRACLE.>>WHEN YOU SHOOT THEM? IN PREVIEWS OR –>>IT IS DIFFERENT EVERY SINGLE SHOW. USUALLY THE FINAL DRESS REHEARSAL. BECAUSE IT’S MUCH EASIER TO SHOOT A SHOW WHEN YOU’RE CLOSE — GET A 3-DIMENSIONAL FEELING. IF SOMEBODY IS JUMPING IT LOOKS LIKE PEOPLE ARE 10 FEET HIGH. IF YOU ARE IN THE BACK, YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW IF THEY ARE OFF THE GROUND. IT IS BETTER TO BE CLOSER. SOME PRODUCERS WOULD RATHER I BE THERE AT THE VERY BEGINNING, THE FINAL DRESS REHEARSAL WHERE THE PRODUCTION PHOTOGRAPHER AND I CAN WORK TOGETHER. OTHER PRODUCERS WANT EVERYTHING TO BE LOCKED DOWN. THEY WANT THE LIGHTING AND COSTUMES TO BE RIGHT. THEY LET ME IN THE DAY BEFORE IT OPENS. THAT IS IN THE BACK OF THE HOUSE. THEY DON’T CARE THAT IT IS FLAT. THEY KNOW THAT THE LIGHTING AND COSTUMES ARE PERFECT.>>DO YOU EVER CHRONICLED THE EVOLUTION OF A SHOW FROM A BASIC READING ALL THE WAY THROUGH TO AN OPENING NIGHT?>>I’VE DONE THAT ONLY WITH ENCORES. THEY ARE ONLY UP FOR TWO WEEKS. IT IS POSSIBLE TO WRITE A STORY AND JUSTIFY THAT KIND OF TIME SPENT. USUALLY THOSE EARLY PICTURES ARE NOT THAT INTERESTING TO PEOPLE. THE FINISHED PRODUCT AND THE BEHIND-THE-SCENES ARE MORE INTERESTING.>>WHEN YOU ARE SHOOTING A SHOW, WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR?>>EMOTION AND ENERGY. I WANT TO SEE SOMETHING BETWEEN THE ACTORS OR SOME KIND OF FEELINGS COMING. THAT IS WHY A SET UP CALL WHERE THEY RUN ONE SCENE IS NOT THE SAME THAN SOMEBODY WHO HAS WORKED THROUGH ALL THE STAGES AND GETTING THE CLIMAX OF FEELING, CRYING, ANGER. THAT’S WHAT I’M ALWAYS LOOKING FOR.>>DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHS AND SCENES THAT YOU’RE ABLE TO CAPTURE?>>OF COURSE. SOMETIMES — WE ARE ONLY AS GOOD AS THE PEOPLE THAT ARE PUTTING THE STUFF UP THERE ON THE STAGE. I HAVE FAVORITE LIGHTING DESIGNERS BECAUSE THEY MAKE ME LOOK GOOD. I HAVE FAVORITE DIRECTORS BECAUSE THEY TAKE CHANCES AND THE STUFF ON THE STAGE IS GORGEOUS. I LOOK FORWARD TO BEING AROUND THESE AMAZING PEOPLE EVERY TIME I STEP INTO A THEATER.>>ANY FAVORITES THIS YEAR?>>I ADMIRE THEM ALL. ANYONE WHO GETS ALL THE WAY TO BROADWAY HAS TO BE THE TOP OF THE HEAP.>>WHAT YOU SHOULD THEM WITH?>>I’M DOING WHAT BILL CUNNINGHAM ALWAYS DID. I’M TRYING TO DOCUMENT THIS WEEK FOR ME. IT HAS BEEN SUCH AN AMAZING THING FOR ME. THIS IS A BRAND-NEW SONY. IT IS SILENT. I ALSO USE CANNONS. I WILL BE SHOOTING THE TONY’S WITH A CANNON. HAVING A CAMERA THAT MAKES NO NOISE IS REALLY A BLESSING FOR EVERYBODY IN THE THEATER. THE CLICKING, PEOPLE CAN’T TELL WHETHER YOU ARE TAKING THE PICTURE. SOME ACTORS ON THE SIDE OF THE STAGE — I DON’T WANT TO TAKE THAT PICTURE. BUT I DON’T WANT THEM TO FEEL BAD EITHER. WITH THE SILENT CAMERA, THEY ARE NOT NOTICING. THEY DON’T KNOW I’M NOT TAKING THEM.>>IT DOESN’T NEED FLASH AND IT IS DIGITAL.>>YEAH.>>THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US AND CONGRATULATIONS. YOU CAN SEE HER PHOTOGRAPHS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR IN PRINT AND ON NYTIMES.COM NEXT, THE BACK STORY. ♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪ WELCOME BACK. WHAT KIND OF A WEEK HAS IT BEEN. MARKED BY VIOLENCE IN THE MIDDLE EAST, JUST MILES AWAY FROM WHERE AMERICANS CELEBRATED THE OPENING OF AN EMBASSY IN JERUSALEM. AND A CAUTIONARY TALE FOR THOSE USING THE ELEVATORS AT TRUMP TOWER. SOMEONE IS ALWAYS WATCHING. JOINING ME TO DISCUSS THESE STORIES AND MORE ARE MY TIMES COLLEAGUES CONTRIBUTING WRITERS, CLYDE HABERMAN AND ELEANOR RANDOLPH. ELEANOR TELL US ABOUT THE RACE ON ATTORNEY GENERAL.>>THE PUBLIC ADVOCATE IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK, SHE IS THE ONE PERSON WHO HAS ACTUALLY COME OUT AND DECLARED THAT SHE IS RUNNING. SHE IS NOT GOING TO ASK FOR THE WORKING FAMILIES PARTY LINE, WHICH IS REALLY INTERESTING. IT BASICALLY MADE HER AS A CANDIDATE WHEN SHE RAN FOR PUBLIC ADVOCATE.>>THE GOVERNOR DOESN’T WANT HER TO TAKE IT.>>THAT IS RIGHT. THE GOVERNOR SAYS, — HE IS TRYING TO DESTROY THE WORKING FAMILIES PARTY. HE TAKES NO PRISONERS. HE WANTS HER — NEXT WEEK THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IS GOING TO HAVE THEIR CONVENTION AND THEY CAN DECIDE WHO GOES ON THE BALLOT. THEY CAN GIVE IT TO ONE PERSON OR FOUR PEOPLE. THERE ARE OTHER WAYS TO GET ON THE BALLOT OF COURSE. THAT IS ONE OF THE EASY WAYS TO DO IT. IN THE MEANTIME, THE LEGISLATURE HAS INTERVIEWED ALL THESE PEOPLE ABOUT THE SHORT-TERM JOB. I THINK THEY HAVE COME AROUND TO DECIDING THAT BARBARA UNDERWOOD WHO IS NOW THE ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL SHOULD STAY ON, AND THEY FIGHT IT OUT.>>THAT PROBABLY MAKES THE MOST SENSE. WHAT ABOUT THE MYSTERY MAN IN ALL OF THIS? THAT IS –>>HE HAS BEEN VERY — HE HAS KEPT HIS CARDS CLOSED. THERE WERE RUMORS HE MIGHT RUN AS AN INDEPENDENT. THEY WERE RUMORS THAT THE REPUBLICANS WOULD LOVE TO HAVE HIM ON THEIR BALLOT LINE. THEY HAVE THEIR CONVENTION NEXT WEEK AS WELL. I MIGHT BET THAT HE DOESN’T RUN.>>WOULD IT MAKE SENSE FOR ANDREW CUOMO TO PUSH THEM THROUGH AS THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE? IT WOULD WIPE AWAY ALL OF HIS PREVIOUS ETHICS QUESTIONS.>>I DON’T THINK THAT WOULD EVER HAPPEN. THIS IS THE GUY WHO WAS INVESTIGATING HIM.>>YOU CAN LET BYGONES BE BYGONES.>>[LAUGHTER] SHELLY SILVER HAS BEEN RE-CONVICTED.>>THE ATTORNEY GENERAL IS SUPPOSED TO BE TOTALLY INDEPENDENT. IF LETITIA JAMES IS NOT GOING TO RUN ON THE WORKING FAMILY, IT IS TELLING THE PARTY TO TAKE A HIKE. IT DOES RAISE A QUESTION ABOUT HER OWN DEPENDENCE.>>THIS WEEK, TOM WOLFE DIED, THE GREAT NOVELIST AND NONFICTION WRITER. HE WAS A CHAMPION OF NEW JOURNALISM. I THOUGHT THAT NEW JOURNALISM WAS THE OLD JOURNALISM.>>I NEVER BOUGHT THAT TERM. THAT HAS BEEN AROUND SINCE THE LATE 60’S. I NEVER FULLY UNDERSTOOD IT. A LOT OF PEOPLE, USUALLY MEN, DID AN AWFUL LOT OF LEGWORK AND SOLID REPORTING. THEY WROTE ABOUT IT IN A SOMEWHAT NOVELISTIC WAY. THERE IS NO INDICATION ANY OF THIS WAS MADE UP. NOVEL IS NONFICTION, EVEN IF IT IS BASED ON REAL CHARACTERS. I THOUGHT IT WAS A TERM THAT CAME OUT OF NOWHERE. LIKE GONZO JOURNALISM. I STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT MEANT. JOURNALISM IS JOURNALISM. YOU REPORT IT, YOU WRITE IT. IF THE FACTS ARE INTERESTING AND THE WRITING IS INTERESTING — THIS IS WHAT WE HAVE BEEN DOING FOR A COUPLE OF HUNDRED YEARS.>>WHAT I LOVED ABOUT READING THE OBITUARY, EVERY DAY HE GOT UP, WENT DOWN INTO THE BASEMENT OF HIS APARTMENT, AND HE WROTE 10 PAGES EVERY SINGLE DAY.>>MY THANKS TO CLYDE HABERMAN AND ELEANOR RANDOLPH FOR JOINING ME. I’LL HAVE ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS ON “CODA” NEXT. ♪>>I ONCE ASKED BILL DE BLASIO WHO, OUT OF ALL THE NEW YORKERS HE KNEW, HE FOUND THE MOST INTERESTING. WITHOUT MISSING A BEAT, HE CHOSE MARY SANSONE. FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO WATCH TELEVISION, YOU KNOW THE DOS EQUIS AD. WITH THE WORLD’S MOST INTERESTING MAN, HE SAID. WELL, MARY SANSONE, WITHOUT QUESTION, TO ME, WAS THE MOST INTERESTING PERSON IN NEW YORK CITY. SHE’S A CHILD OF ITALIAN IMMIGRANTS WHO WENT ON TO BE A SOCIAL ACTIVIST AND FIGHTER FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, HE SAID, AND A LIFETIME OF CHANGING THIS WORLD, AND CHANGING THIS CITY FOR THE BETTER. MARY SANSONE DIED THIS WEEK. SHE WOULD HAVE BEEN 102-YEARS-OLD NEXT MONTH. SHE STOOD ONLY FOUR FOOT 11 INCHES BUT SHE ACHIEVED A POLITICAL STATURE THAT MIGHT HAVE SEEMED ANOMALOUS FOR A BROOKLYNITE WHO HAPPENED TO BE ITALIAN-AMERICAN, A WOMAN AND A DEMOCRAT. IN 1971, BAYARD RUSTIN, THE BLACK CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER, VISITED HER HOME. THAT VISIT HERALDED AN AMBITIOUS EFFORT TO UNITE THE CITY’S BLACK, HISPANIC AND WHITE ETHNIC COMMUNITIES IN A COMMON AGENDA FOR POLITICAL EMPOWERMENT AND IMPROVED MUNICIPAL SERVICES. MARY, DE BLASIO SAID, WAS WORKING WITH PEOPLE FROM DIFFERENT COMMUNITIES WHEN IT WAS ALMOST TABOO. I TOOK PART IN EVERY MOVEMENT FOR JUSTICE, MARY TOLD ME, WHETHER IT WAS UNION RIGHTS, CIVIL RIGHTS, HUMAN RIGHTS, WOMEN’S RIGHTS OR GAY RIGHTS. SHE WAS A DEMOCRAT, AN EARLY ALLY OF MARIO CUOMO. BUT SHE SAW BEYOND POLITICAL PARTY TO SUPPORT REPUBLICANS LIKE JOHN LINDSAY, RUDY GIULIANI AND MIKE BLOOMBERG. MARY, MAYOR BLOOMBERG SAID, PASSIONATELY BELIEVED THAT PARTISAN POLITICS SHOULD NEVER GET IN THE WAY OF SERVING THE PUBLIC. BROOKLYN STREET SMARTS WAS HER BAROMETER, WHAT WE USED TO CALL COMMON SENSE. WHEN RUDY GIULIANI LOST HIS FIRST MAYORAL RACE, MARY SANSONE THREW HIM A PARTY. WHY, SHE ASKED, GIVE A PARTY TO A PERSON WHO WINS? HE’S HAPPY ALREADY. SHE DISPENSED GRASS ROOTS WISDOM THAT SHE HAD GLEANED AS AN 8 YEAR OLD IN UNION SQUARE WHERE HER FATHER ADDRESSED POTENTIAL RECRUITS TO THE INDUSTRIAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD. SHE CRITICIZED POOR ITALIANS FOR BEING TOO PROUD TO APPLY FOR PUBLIC ASSISTANCE. SHE FOUGHT THE MAFIA. SHE BLUNTLY REBUFFED CRITICS WHO COMPLAINED THAT HER CIVIC GROUP HAD HIRED SOME OF HER RELATIVES, SAYING THEY WERE AS QUALIFIED AS ANYONE ELSE AND BEING RELATED WAS NO REASON TO DISMISS THEM. SHE WAS A BOROUGH PARK FOLK HERO, A POLITICAL GODMOTHER. I NEVER YELLED, I NEVER SCREAMED AND I ALWAYS PRETENDED I WAS A FRIEND, MARY SAID. I TOLD THEM OFF WITH A SMILE. FOR THE “NEW YORK TIMES” AND CUNY-TV, I’M SAM ROBERTS ♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪

1 thought on “Theater of Politics | The New York Times Close Up with Sam Roberts

  1. Always a pleasure to hear Stephen Greenblatt. A brilliant and a truly underrated scholar. Of course the NTY would throw Trump bait. Greenblatt's levelheaded response at 4:25 and in other parts was refreshing.

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