Ivory Tower Burning is the name of a play I presented at the 2012 Minnesota Fringe Festival. The show earned praise from audiences and critics, including John Townsend at the Star Tribune (“exquisitely integrates intellectual ideas with the corresponding passions such ideas elicit”) and Camille LeFevre at mnartists.org (“extremely well-written—deft, fast-paced, articulate and powerful”). See photos and comments from the production archived in the related Facebook event, and listen to a Spotify playlist of music from the show.
In 1960, sociologist Talcott Parsons was one of the most influential academics in America. A staunch defender of the status quo, he believed that capitalist democracy should and would spread across the globe. C. Wright Mills was a young and charismatic upstart, a Marxist who believed that the “power elite” who controlled America should be overthrown and a more equitable society established.
This new play imagines a meeting between these two real-life historical figures in Parsons’s Harvard office. The two have an intense discussion that begins as an debate over academic theories and ultimately becomes an argument about the very fundamentals of human nature. What kind of society are humans capable of? Can inequality ever be eliminated? Do we need to be protected from ourselves? Though the play is set in Cold War, pre-Civil-Rights-Movement America, it resonates with the struggles of today, from the tents of the Occupy movement to the cries of the radical groups who very literally brought down America’s ivory towers in 2001.
Show creator Jay Gabler has a Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard, where he taught Sociology 10: the very class Parsons himself taught to a generation of students. As the author of Sociology for Dummies and a longtime theater critic, Gabler is uniquely well-suited to tell this story on the stage. Gabler will play Parsons (above, left), and his younger brother Joe Gabler (right) will play the idealistic Mills. This play will leave viewers with a lot to think, and talk, about.
Hear Jay Gabler talk about Ivory Tower Burning in an interview for Minnesota Public Radio
Hear Jay Gabler talk about Ivory Tower Burning in an interview for The Society Pages
Joe Gabler (co-star), 27, works in sales at SPS Commerce. He lives in St. Louis Park.
Joe Gabler’s costume provided courtesy of Blacklist Vintage, 25 E. 26th St. in Minneapolis.