Clearly, it is not enough for today's writer to have the craft of Shakespeare or Twain or Hemingway or Williams or even Neil Simon. Now authors must carefully avoid any hint of inflammatory opinions or remarks. Fat jokes are out. Submissive female characters are deemed offensive. African Americans never should be cast as villains. People are picketing the film True Lies, an intentional farce of spy films, because it might be interpreted as being offensive to Arabs.

I see students in playwriting classes consciously trying to write PCPs, searching for subjects that fit into that mold. So what happened to the honesty of drama, of writing to tell a simple story that touches something basic in all humankind? The sad truth of this current trend is that today's theater -- much like today's record and film industries -- is trying to make an easy buck off the new big thing. Since Spielberg's Schindler's List and Miller's Broken Glass did well at the box office and on Broadway respectively, greedy imitators are lining up for genocide-oriented plays. AIDS has been used repeatedly as a hot ticket. Many people would say that the money generated for AIDS research by fundraisers pegged to such productions is a good thing. There's no denying that.

Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern may be amusing on radio and TV, but I shudder to think of either one writing a play. To me, the stage is neither pulpit nor podium. It is intended to elevate and entertain all people, regardless of their specific lifestyles. Keep politics out of art -- it's even more contrived and embarrassing than watching Bill Clinton play the saxophone.

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