ROUNDABOUT BLOG

Love Love Love

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE: Read/Watch/Listen

Posted on: December 7th, 2016 by Rory McGregor

 

From the playwright behind the smash Broadway hit King Charles III, Love, Love, Love, follows two baby boomers, Kenneth and Sandra, as they come to grips with the world through three very different eras. Starting with the 1960s, we watch these characters as their lives unfold, and as they have children who embark on journeys of their own. To give better context of what London was like in 1967, 1990 and 2011, check out our latest installment of To Read/Watch/Listen below!

TO READ

Bartlett’s Tony-nominated King Charles III imagines a future wherein Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has passed and Prince Charles takes the throne. Written in blank verse, Charles struggles with the question of how to rule as William, Kate and Harry look on.

TO WATCH

1967 (Act I) – Our World

At the opening of Love, Love, Love, we see Kenneth excitedly waiting for The Beatles to perform on the TV. Did you know that the Beatles recorded "All We Need is Love" especially for Our World on June 25, 1967? They were tasked with coming up with a song which promoted love, peace and unity for the event, which was the world’s first live, international satellite television production. Artists from nineteen nations were invited to perform and represent their nations, including artists such as Maria Callas and the painter Pablo Picasso. We hear "All We Need is Love" at the beginning and end of the show, and it is "Our World" that Kenneth is watching on the TV as the play opens.

TO READ

1990 (Act II) – The Battle of Trafalgar Square
Act II opens in the family home in March 1990. Jamie tells Kenneth of a riot he is watching on TV with "horses" and "skinheads", asking if his dad pays Poll Tax. This is referring to Margaret Thatcher’s controversial decision to change existing tax laws in the UK and create a new "Poll Tax" which led to protests across the country. The event that Jamie is watching on TV is most likely the largest protest which occurred in London on March 31, 1990, colloquially known as the "Battle of Trafalgar Square" which led to rioting and looting which went on until 3am David Graham revisits the scene in this article in the Independent.

TO LISTEN

1990 (Act II)
At the beginning of the Act Jamie dances vigorously to The Stone Roses’ She Bangs the Drums. This song is the second single off their debut album, The Stone Roses, released in 1989.

2011 (Act III):
At the beginning of Act III, we hear DJ David Guetta and Akon’s dance hit "Sexy Chick" which was recorded for Guetta’s fourth studio album, One Love. The song achieved considerable commercial success worldwide, peaking inside the top five in several countries, including topping the charts in Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

However, it was not the highest selling single of the year in the UK. If you were to visit the UK in 2011 who were you more likely to hear? It turned out 2011 was a breakthrough year for a certain British artist below, who topped the charts:

 

TO READ

2011 (Act III):
One of the main themes through the play culminating in the third act, is that of home ownership. Rose, 37 in the third act, asks her parents to buy her a house. The United Kingdom, like many other Western countries, is currently suffering from a housing crisis. Many people are unable to afford to buy a house and so become trapped in an unending cycle of rental, as summarized in article by The Guardian.


Love, Love, Love is now playing at The Laura Pels Theatre through December 18. For tickets and more information, please visit our website.


Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Love Love Love


3 Comments

Love, Love, Love: The World of the Play, 1967

Posted on: December 4th, 2016 by Roundabout

 

The late 1960s were a time of social and political change in both Britain and the United States. In many ways these were the conclusion of shifts begun in the wake of WWII. For the older generation, these changes were disorienting; for Love, Love, Love protagonists Kenneth and Sandra, representatives of the cohort born just after the war, they were a natural evolution of the only society they had ever known.

 

Sample of a UK Child's Ration Book, WWII

Sample of a UK Child's
Ration Book, WWII

THE END OF AN EMPIRE

While the United States emerged from WWII as a world power with a strong economy, Britain was left bankrupt and physically devastated, unable to maintain control over its far-flung colonies. Between 1945 and 1968, more than two dozen British colonies, including India, all became independent nations. At the same time, immigration to Britain rose due to the need for new workers to rebuild the British economy. Indians, Poles, and West Indians arrived in large numbers.

A MORE AFFLUENT POPULATION

Though Britain struggled economically after the war, by the late 1950s the country was more affluent than ever before. There was a purposeful effort to build a more equitable, less class-based, society. The creation of the social safety net, including national health insurance and payments to families to offset the cost of caring for children, raised the material standard of living. Employment levels were high, and families could afford cars and televisions for the first time. Housing estates, similar to older American suburbs and early public housing developments, were built to replace housing destroyed in the war and to house those displaced by slum clearance projects. These estates featured amenities uncommon in previous generations: central heating and indoor plumbing.

ACCESS TO EDUCATION

The Education Act of 1944 made secondary school, equivalent to high school in the United States, free and available to all students. Previously, secondary school had been almost exclusively for upper class males. Beginning in 1962, universities in Britain were free: the state paid students’ tuition and awarded maintenance grants to cover living expenses. Between 1960 and 1970 the number of Britons earning a college degree doubled. Kenneth and Sandra are part of this group.

Recruitment Poster for the National Service

Recruitment Poster for the National Service

THE END OF NATIONAL SERVICE

From 1939 until 1960 all British men between 18 and 21 were conscripted into National Service and required to spend 18 months in the military and four years on reserve. This system was phased out between 1960 and 1963. Kenneth was part of the first group of teenagers not required to join the military in two decades.

WOMEN

Women in Britain in the 1960s did not have the rights or opportunities of their male peers. Most left school at 15, worked for several years, and married by their early twenties. Pursuing a college degree makes Sandra part of an elite group.

Though an official marriage bar — which required women in civil service to give up their jobs after marriage — ended in 1946, women were still expected to leave work after marriage in many fields. Women could not get credit or make large purchases without a male guarantor.

Birth control became available to married women only in 1961, but it was not prescribed to unmarried women until 1974. Abortion was legalized in 1967, but the law required the doctor, not the woman, to make the decision about whether or not abortion was appropriate.

The women’s liberation movement coalesced in the late 1960s around issues of wage equality. Women earned 54% of what men earned on average and in many cases were paid less for exactly the same work.

Students on their way to class, early 1970s

Students on their way to class, early 1970s

YOUTH CULTURE

British and American young people in the late 1960s were similar in their rejection of “the establishment,” a term for those who hold political or cultural power in a society. The revolutionary, rebellious music of the decade spanned the Atlantic, as did the appreciation of recreational drugs and free love. But the United States had two challenges the British did not face: direct involvement with the Vietnam War, and a major civil rights movement.

The main political cause for British youth was the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. CND unilaterally opposed nuclear weapons, held at the time by the U.S., Britain, and the Soviet Union, out of fear of a nuclear war and in moral objection to the loss of civilian life seen after atomic bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945. While CND opposed the war in Vietnam, not many Britons were active participants in the Campaign in the late 1960s.

Twiggy

Twiggy

British youth culture centered on “Swinging London.” Swinging was slang for hip or fashionable, and came into use in the late 1950s. Perhaps because the political situation in Britain felt less urgent, Swinging London was all about music and fashion. “Mod,” short for modern, clothes were in: miniskirts and shift dresses in bold colors and prints, designed by Mary Quant and modeled by Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton.

U.S. AND VIETNAM

U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, which began in the early 1950s, was driven by fear of communist expansion. By the late 1960s many Americans no longer supported the war because they objected to American soldiers dying in another country’s civil war, learned of the death and devastation caused by the American and south Vietnamese militaries, and/or or considered American involvement a form of imperialism. The draft system, which conscripted men between 18-21 to serve in the military, drew heavily from minority populations and was seen as unfair. Student groups, civil rights activists, mothers’ organizations, and clergy were all involved in the anti-war movement.

The U.S. civil rights movement, which began in 1954 and had forced change in U.S. laws and practices in housing, employment, education, and voting rights, continued in the late 1960s. Britain, which didn’t have a significant minority population until the immigration of the 1950s, also passed anti-discrimination laws during this period. Overall, the movement was much larger in the United States.

1967 FACTS

  • Senator Edward Brooke, Republican of Massachusetts, becomes the first popularly elected African-American Senator since Reconstruction.
  • The Great Human Be-In in San Francisco features Timothy Leary, who tells the crowd to “Turn on, tune in, drop out”
  • The first ATM is installed in a North London bank.
  • Male homosexuality is decriminalized in Britain.
  • The Outer Space Treaty is signed by the U.S.A, the U.K., and the Soviet Union. It prohibits orbiting weapons of mass destruction.
  • The first air conditioned subway car goes into service in NYC.
  • The first black police officer joins the the London Metropolitan Police Force.
  • The first heart transplants are performed in Cape Town and New York City.
  • In Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

Love, Love, Love is now playing at the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. For tickets and more information, visit our website.


Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Love Love Love


1 Comment

Love, Love, Love: The Boomers and the Xers

Posted on: November 25th, 2016 by Roundabout

 

Boomers and Xers
Google “Generation X vs. Baby Boomers,” or “Millennials vs. Generation X” and you’ll find results that, true to the “versus,” bring to mind a boxing match. Not just in the comments sections (Millennials and Gen Xers urging Boomers to retire or die; Gen Xers and Boomers scolding Millennials for participation-ribbon entitlement), but in the articles themselves. “Who’s worse off financially – Baby Boomers, Generation X or Millenials?” asks Canada’s Financial Post. “Baby Boomers: Five Reasons They Are Our Worst Generation,” trumpets a Philly Mag listicle. “Generation X has it worse than baby boomers,” laments the Boston Globe. “Crybaby millennials need to stop whinging and work hard like the rest of us,” admonishes London’s Telegraph. The stakes of the match seem not to be a victory, but an admission of defeat: who’s been hit the hardest, and how much have they lost?

The answers aren’t easy – but they also aren’t qualitative. Though we love to throw personal accusations around (the Boomers had no foresight, the Xers were slackers, the Millennials are narcissists), the real roots of the generational divide can be traced back to hard economic truths. In Rose’s words, “It is all about fucking money.”

Baby Boom and Bust

THE MONEY EQUATION: INPUT ≠ OUTPUT

One of the most controversial issues between Boomers and their descendants is that of government support for retirees. In 2015, a significant portion of US Government spending went towards Americans of retiring age. 24% of the federal budget went towards Social Security, and another 16% went towards Medicare. That means about 1.4 trillion dollars, or nearly 40% of the nation’s $3.7 trillion spending, went towards Americans over the age of 65 (generally speaking; 17% of Medicare beneficiaries are younger Americans with disabilities). As more of the nearly 75 million Baby Boomers age, this percentage will only increase. The rising costs are compounded by the fact that healthcare has gotten exponentially more expensive in the United States over the past century. In 1964, health care spending was about $197 per person per year, which would adjust to about $1,450 in 2012 dollars. But in 2012, health care spending per person per year was actually $8,915. The massive cost increase is the result of multiple factors, most notably waste (a 2012 Atlantic article, citing an Institute of Medicine report, estimated that the US spends about $750 billion on unnecessary healthcare costs each year). As aging Boomers encounter more health problems, their monetary strain on the system will continue to grow, and younger generations will be left paying the price.

Of course, if Gen X and the Millennials could count on similar government support in their old age, they might not mind paying their taxes towards Boomer-benefitting services. But unfortunately, younger generations can’t count on the same safety net. Workers born in the 1960s and onwards (a group that includes Rose and Jamie) have paid a higher percentage of their incomes into the Social Security tax than the Baby Boomers before them, but will receive less Social Security benefits in retirement. Baby Boomers didn’t just get their tax dollars back – they actually got more money in benefits than they’d paid for. A 2012 Urban Institute study estimated that a typical (Boomer) couple retiring in 2011 would draw about $200,000 more from Medicare and Social Security than they’d paid in taxes towards the same programs. Millennials and Xers will be lucky if they see their contributions come back at a 1:1 ratio.

Education Attainment Levels through Generations

THE MOBILITY TREND: UPWARD → DOWNWARD

The problem with Social Security benefits isn’t just about payout – it’s also about what higher contribution taxes, plus a myriad of other negative economic factors, means for the ability of Gen Xers and Millennials to save for retirement. When early-wave Baby Boomers (including Kenneth, Henry, and Sandra) entered the workforce, they could expect a steady upward climb in salary. They did better than their parents, and they also did better than their younger selves, seeing salary gains throughout their twenties, thirties, and forties before a wage peak (of 60-70% above their starting salary) in their early fifties. This lifelong rise allowed early Boomers to save for retirement and buy wealth-accruing assets (like stocks and houses). In retirement, Boomers could expect to live off of their accumulated wealth, in combination with employer-sponsored pensions and government-supported services. As a result, the net wealth of early-wave Baby Boomers in retirement is essentially the same as it was pre-retirement.

Richard Armitage and Zoe Kazan (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Richard Armitage and Zoe Kazan
(Photo by Joan Marcus)

Now, compare that to the state of mid to late Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. While early Baby Boomers enjoyed a lifetime upswing, the following generations (those born in the late 50s and onwards) experienced downward trends across the board. A 2015 Washington Monthly article, “Wealth and Generations,” neatly lays out the contrast: “Today’s fiftysomethings may be part of the first generation in American history to experience this kind of lifetime downward mobility, in which at every stage of adult life, they have had less income and less net wealth than did people who were their age ten years before. Yet these mid-wave Baby Boomers shouldn’t feel too sorry for themselves. That’s because, as we shall see, they were far better off as twentysomethings than were subsequent cohorts of Generation X twentysomethings, and especially better off than today’s Millennials.”

Unfortunately, it’s true. Gen Xers and Millennials have had many obstacles to overcome: lower starting salaries than their predecessors, fewer wage increases in their 20s and 30s, earlier and lower earnings peaks (early Xers saw a 50% increase at their peak; later Xers and Millennials may see only a 20% increase), fewer employer-sponsored pensions, and lower rates of asset ownership. As a result, these generations have a limited ability to accumulate wealth – and a more precipitous drop in post-retirement income. While early Boomers enjoyed nearly 100% of their pre-retirement income in their golden years, Gen X will subsist on about 50% of their pre-retirement income. And even that has come at a personal price. While the typical Generation X household makes (when adjusted for inflation) about $12,000 more per year than their parents’ household did, they also do more work and have less wealth; more families have two wage earners, and the hours worked by those wage earners have increased over time. In the past, more work meant higher wages; from 1948-1973, the productivity of American workers went up 96.7%, and wages followed, increasing by 91.3%. Productivity also increased from 1973-2013 (by about 75%), but, in contrast to previous decades, wages lagged far behind, increasing only 9%. As a result, American families are experiencing downward mobility. Nearly one-third of Gen Xers born in the late 1970s to middle-class families fell out of the middle class in adulthood. And fewer than half of Gen Xers (in every income bracket) are wealthier than their parents were at the same age.

Hot Button Issues through the Generations

THE COMMON VARIABLES

So what happened to cause this downward spiral? Two major economic shifts are significant to the story: the 1990 Recession, and the 2008 Financial Crisis. The first occurred just as Gen Xers were entering the workforce and the latter in the midst of what should have been their peak earning years. The results were catastrophic for the total financial narrative of Xers, causing them to have low starting salaries, lesser savings, and major savings losses. Generation X lost 45% of their wealth during The Great Recession, 2007-2010 (Boomers lost only 25%). And those difficult years have had reverberations for every generation: Boomers have stayed in the workforce at unprecedented rates (keeping jobs that, in other circumstances, would have opened to Xers and Millennials), asset values have decreased, and wages have stagnated. As a result, many younger Americans have opted to delay their entry into the workforce (and up their appeal as a job candidate) by going to college – an ostensibly wise move, considering that high school graduates today make only 62% of what college graduates make (as compared to 77% in 1979).

Richard Armitage and Amy Ryan (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Richard Armitage and Amy Ryan (Photo by Joan Marcus)

But college, of course, poses another set of financial problems. In the best-case scenario, college delays earnings but ultimately pays off in a more skilled (and higher-paid) job. In the worst-case scenario, which is currently playing out for many Millennials, you graduate with mounds of student debt (college costs more than doubled between 1982 and 2012, and the average student borrower graduating in 2016 will owe some $37,000) and no job openings in your field. Many Millennials are choosing to bide their time (and pay their debts) by working jobs unrelated to their degrees. What will happen when jobs return (some 30 million are estimated to open as Boomers retire over the coming years) and these Millennials haven’t been building their resumes – and a new batch of graduates is ready to hire? We’ll see.

But while Millennials are looking at an uncertain future, Xers are living in a tenuous present. Often called the forgotten or neglected “middle child” between the Boomers and Millennials, Gen X is also currently a “sandwich” generation, meaning they are paying for aging parents as well as dependent children. The results are dire for finances. A 2015 survey found that nearly 40% of Generation X respondents reported that they do not feel “at all financially secure,” and nearly as many (38%) reported having more debt than savings.

Richard Armitage, Amy Ryan and Alex Hurt (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Richard Armitage, Amy Ryan and Alex Hurt (Photo by Joan Marcus)

THE SOLUTION

It’s important to remember that the factors above don’t exist in a vacuum. The economy, the job climate, and the college system are maintained and shaped by policy decisions. And for the past twenty years, those decisions have been made by Baby Boomers. Boomers make up only one-third of the American voting-age population, but they the hold nearly 2/3 of the seats in the House and Senate. The Congressional Boomer legacy still has some time to change; it’s estimated that Generation X won’t gain a majority in the House or Senate until at least 2018. But the generation’s record thus far has been, in a word, contentious. Jim Tankersley, in a 2015 Washington Post article, offered a harsh view of the Boomers’ achievements: “…they cut their own taxes, they deficit-financed two wars, they approved a new Medicare prescription drug benefit that their generation will be the first to enjoy in full. Partly as a result of those policies… Boomers let federal debt, as a share of the economy, double from where it was in 1970… Every generation wants to leave a better world for the ones to follow. I truly believe that boomers had no idea, for a long time, that the sum of their choices — of their quest to make life as good as it could be for themselves — might be a worse world for their children. But it’s apparent now.” Apparent, and illustrated onstage in Love, Love, Love – though, at least in the play, the Boomers aren’t watching.


Love, Love, Love is now playing at the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. For tickets and more information, visit our website.


Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Love Love Love, Upstage


1 Comment