Thursday, April 16, 2015

NEWSFLASH!


Let me first begin by excusing my husband from anything I am writing. These are not his opinions or thoughts, they are mine. It's my blog and I don't let him near it. He has taken a beating over his choice for the Spring play at our school, by a group of ultraconservative women in the community that do not have children in his Spring play "Almost Maine." One of the women's son was cast in the play, but when she found out that he had to kiss a girl in his scene, she pulled him out. Her compatriot went further and decided to raise an army on Facebook. One of the posts in the thread actually said "I'm secretly hoping he changes the play." Wow. Secrecy means something entirely different to me. 

But this isn't about me in any way, nor is it really my business; I'm not even able to respond to the thread because this Facebooker isn't on my list of friends (nor will she ever be) but I'm just shocked that this mentality still exists among the women of the world. I always expect more from women I guess. ;-) And if I need to keep waving the flag of tolerance I will do it until my arms fall off. I'm a teacher, it's what I do. I PRAY with all my heart that this blog reaches the people that need to read it. If you know someone that needs to read it, please send it on! Otherwise, I'm just writing so I can sleep at night...and that's okay too. 

Frankly, the whole things makes me weary. Considering the amount of CRAP that is out there in libraries full of ugly theatre literature, Almost Maine is one of the tamest, loveliest, funniest plays available. It's a humorous look at love and relationships. It contains little if any swears, no violence, no sex at all, not an ounce of nudity and by all accounts, it would probably be rated PG in the movies theatres for mild innuendo. Its very funny and it will make you say "ahhhhhh!" and drop a tear or two. This is why it has become the NUMBER ONE produced play in high schools around the nation. (Educational Theatre Association Survey)

But it's the same old story. It seems that no matter where you go, someone has appointed themselves the town's morality police and they expect you to conform or they will take it personally. But Les Mis, sells out in minutes around here. (MIND BOGGLING)

I'm still driving the bandwagon of tolerance I guess. Education will always make us a more tolerant people. Tolerance will increase civility and civility will increase love. It always comes back to love, doesn't it? We should do a play about love....oh...wait....

***************

Blood everywhere. Brain matter on the windshield. A small stray arm lay in the middle of the road still clutching My Little Pony. A car, folded up like an accordion spitting glass, steam and blood, is being pulled off the road. 30 teenagers scream and groan as they watch the firemen crack open an upside down truck to release the once drunk driver...who is not recognizable as a human anymore.
The teacher stands at the back of the classroom smiling wryly. He thinks this does the trick. He hopes the picture of this horrific accident will be tattooed in their brains every time they pick up a drink and then try to drive. 1981. Drivers education class. The best police training tapes they could get on reel to reel. I remember that we couldn't wait for that week in the semester when we got to see the notorious scare tactic films.

Scare tactics are powerful.

They're meant to sear a memory on you brain that pops up at opportune times in your life when you need to remember the consequences of bad behavior BEFORE you commit to it yourself.

We use scare tactics all the time. Adults do it to kids on a daily basis. It masks itself as education, or wisdom or good sound advice. The gorier the better. The more dramatic the consequences the better. Our aim is usually not to scare kids but to keep them safe. Once my 5 year old niece got lost at Disneyland and we couldn't find her for ten minutes. When my sister finally found her looking through the fence and clapping at the teacups the new mom cried out (in a panic of course): "do you want some stranger to steal you away from us and cut you into chunks and throw you in the river?! Is that what you want?!" Of course not. We all laughed but our hearts rates didn't slow down for a few hours.

My scare tactics usually begin with, "...where is your homework...why didn't you do your homework...why are you late? And then the punch to the gut: Are you willfully choosing to work for minimum wage the rest of your life? Or you could use Andy's favorite, "I hope you like playing Nintendo in your parents basement forever."

There's even a reality TV show called "Scare Tactics." My favorite is the one that takes kids that are on the edge of prison into a locked down facility to see what it's like and hear it first hand from the prisoners themselves. It's called "Scared Straight." If that doesn't scare a kid into shaping up I don't know what will.

However, we assume if we tell them not to drink and drive that they won't. We assume that if the health teacher shows them a video of a woman having a baby, or that vile STD PowerPoint, that they won't have unprotected sex. Uh, huh. We want to believe that they perceive jail as an undesirable place to live...but it might just be better and safer than where they live now. Or they might just want to avoid the constant stream of advice they're getting. If they think the rules are tough at home or in the classroom...ha!

Unfortunately, most kids either choose to learn the hard way, or choose to learn it for themselves because they lack trust or they just wanna have "fun." (I'm speaking of course, about my own childhood. I never landed in jail, but there was that time we went swimming out at Saratoga in the middle of the night and just barely managed to escape the police after the alarms went off...that scared me straight enough. I ran so fast I was almost dry by the time my friends caught up with me.)

What is the punishment for chaining your kid to the bed or locking them in the attic until they are 25? I'm sure that's literally against the law, but figuratively we do it all the time. At what point do you "teach them the way they should go" and then l.e.t. t.h.e.m. g.o.?

Andy and I have made an annual pilgrimage to the National Theatre Festival and a bi-annual trek out to New York to see the new plays and musicals. We consider it research for work, because believe it or not, I don't enjoy the theatre that much. My greatest joy is in seeing kids grow in ways that only the theatre can teach. We want to make sure that we are choosing shows that stretch kids for a maximum educational opportunity. We want to get them hooked so they choose that as their drug of choice. Truthfully, we're just underpaid drug dealers at heart.

What has got me riled up this week is a Facebook post that I described above. In the thread several women post their opinions and I'm all for that. God forbid we ever lose the freedom to say how we feel. Well, this is how I feel. I have copied several portions of the thread and pasted them here in case you missed it.

(The green print is what I have quoted from the thread on Facebook:)

Post Writer: The [        ] High School play this Spring is "Almost, Maine." It's a series of vignettes about falling in love including this one. Do you think this is appropriate for our high school and for our community. I don't but the director does. What are your thoughts?

(At this point in her post, the writer inserts a YouTube video of another high school's production in doing a scene from the play Almost Maine by John Cariani. This is the scene between two best friends that find out they would rather spend time with each other than anyone else. Yes, these are two boys, and yes, the innuendo is there in a humorous way, but could be taken in a myriad of ways.)

Post by High School Student: Andy (our director) edited it and it's another boy-girl scene now. He changed it because he knew this would be the reaction in this community.

Post Writer: It's a controversial topic and I appreciate your opinions. Thanks for your update, [High School Student]. Any other thoughts? Do you think this play would help or hurt? (emphasis added).

Help or hurt.

HELP OR HURT? 

HELP OR HURT?!?!?!?

Let the flood gates open...a.g.a.i.n.

(I quote the thread again - and all it's syntax errors)

I see this play as "not a good fit for our community" for several reasons.

Okay I already have to stop. WHO SPEAKS FOR AN ENTIRE TOWN? Is she the mayor? Is she protesting a nuclear waste dump next to an elementary school? I was so hopeful that our new town was filled with the kind of diversity that helps everyone learn to love each other. Still there are some ultraconservatives out there that are continue to "piously wave their self-made rules above all our heads." There's no escaping them. HOLY HERRIMAN! This Facebook thread makes me feel afraid that if I express my political stance, I will get a shunning. Dang it. I REALLY LIKE THIS TOWN! (I know they aren't all like her. In fact, when I directed several local people to the thread, they assured me that she is the micro-minority as I suspected.)

I have already digressed. Let's keep going...

I see this play as "not a good fit for our community" for several reasons.

One - I agree with [ ] and others that this is too mature for 15 and 16 yr olds to be performing. She did a great job explaining why so I won't say anything more.


I have to stop again because you should know that she is basing her opinions on another director's production that was posted on YouTube. Not my husband's choices for his kids. She is assuming that we are all bound to "color" the page with the same 8 crayons. Yes - we don't cut the script down without permission, BUT, just so you know... 

NEWSFLASH #1
THE STAGE DIRECTIONS ARE OPTIONAL – THE TEXT IS NOT
Stage directions are most likely written by a stage manager and I am not obligated to use them for my production. I am only obligated to use the text as written. So when I read the thread on Facebook about how disgustingly inappropriate the play is for high school students, the author of the post quoted one particular scene to give her argument credibility. In this scene, the characters systematically take off their clothes. Inappropriate on stage for high school kids? YES! Of course yes. But because it’s in the stage direction, Andy will just ignore it or tone it down with his kids and take it in a different direction. He will use the same text – but a different context. We directors have a thousand choices. I am not obligated to use the choices that the first director used. It’s just there as a record of what the first cast did. So saying that a play is inappropriate based of the stage direction is a claim made by ignorant readers.

We high school teachers have to be really creative sometimes…but we are. For example, I hate the ending of Grease - where Sandy dons the leather pants and "comes down" to Danny's social level to get her man. So instead of changing the text, I simple had Danny wear a goofy plaid shirt and letter sweater. No need for the text change - the costume choice changed the tone. (and we made $20,000 which allowed us to go to Scotland).

Her post continues... TAKE A DEEP BREATH BEFORE YOU READ THIS:

Two - I'm concerned that homosexuality is becoming a trend in our plays. "The drowsy chaperone" had references to it and now this play. I'm not okay with this. Even though the homosexuality is edited out it is opening the door through familiarity to make it easier to include it in future works. There are thousands of plays to choose from. Couldn't we have something more edifying and fitting with our values? Three - by purchasing this play our community has put a stamp of approval on the national movement to accept homosexuality and gay marriage. It doesn't matter that it was edited out. No outsider will know that. However, they will be able to use our town as a statistic showing that even the small towns in conservative Utah are teaching their kids that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle choice. Other towns may look at us and think "Well if it was okay for conservative [name of town] It would be okay for us." It is one thing to have a group of judges force the state's hand to accept gay marriage. It is quite another to actively choose (or condone through our silence) to have our children acting out a play known to support homosexuality.


I don't even know where to start here. Maybe I could just go dig her a hole in the sand that she can put her head into until this whole "homosexual thing" blows over. I know a bunch of homosexuals, maybe we should tell them - ON AN INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL MEDIA SITE - that we hate them and they aren't welcome in our town. ....BLUSTERING-HEAD-SHAKING-RASPBERRIES-OF DISBELIEF!!

I C.A.N.T.E.V.E.N!


NEWSFLASH #2
You can't catch homosexuality. It's not contagious. There. I've said it. WHEW! I hope she reads this just so she can get that straight before all the gays move into our newly tolerant town and her kids get the disease! She'll sleep better tonight. The problem is, later in the thread the writer says she knows several homosexual men that would rather not be homosexual. Then she says, "homosexuality is a temptation and can be overcome." It was painfully obvious to me (and two of my gay Mormon friends that read the thread) that no one has ever told her the truth. Even the LDS church has backed down from that stance. Didn't she get the memo? Homosexuality IS ONE OF the sexualities. We shouldn't need to "protect" our children from it. That's insane. That in itself bears an inherent judgement already. What if your child was gay? Would you want people to protect themselves against him? I'm sick of even thinking about this anymore. It just saddens me.

NEWSFLASH #3
You are telling the entire world (via Facebook) that you disdain homosexuality and you are speaking for everyone in the town. That's not fair. Think of how you made our gay brothers and sisters feel with your statement. I know you don't think you're doing Satan's work...but OH how you have fallen naively into his trap.

NEWSFLASH #4
Andy is not editing the BFF scene out of the play. We didn't have enough boys audition (as usual) and since he knew this is how you would react, he opted to change the scene to a boy and a girl. None of the text will be cut without permission from the author or his agent. We have to put girls in boys roles all the time, there are so many more of them in this art. (BECAUSE GIRLS ROCK!) AND ALSO, AGAIN - it's about tone.

Okay...back to the post before my eyes pop out of my head.

"when [the writer of the post] asked if this will help or hurt, I think it will hurt at least [our town's} family attendance, because it's not meant in any way for the whole family, younger siblings, it's in my opinion, something you would go to in college, or on adult date, where the context can be understood."

See Newsflash #1.

She goes on to say that Andy "asked my son to kiss a girl in the play."

NEWSFLASH #5
This social contract of auditioning is optional in every land I've ever worked in and unless you tell the teacher in advance what your parameters are, the teacher will assign you to the role she thinks is appropriate for you, kissing or not. Auditions infer that you WANT to be in the play. The director puts you in a role that is right for your child and right for the overall concept of the play. I want you to read the scripts of the plays your children are auditioning for BEFORE you let them audition. Be that involved. Don't be a bully about your particular standards. Teach your children that if the play content does not reflect your standards, then they should simply choose to do something else without piousness (and Facebook). 

Matthew 6: 2 - 6.

Andy had 20 COPIES of the play available for you to check out and read in advance. You have every right to complain about the content of a play BEFORE auditions happen. But unless you bring more than half of the community with you that believe the same thing, don't cover yourself with the "community standard" blanket. There isn't one. Once a play is up and running...back off! Let learning happen. If you go to the play and find out that "OH NO! My child says some swears! Or my child has to kiss someone in his scene, I'm going straight to the media about this," that ship has sailed! It's too late! Your ignorance does not give you the right to complain anymore. Whatever negativity you bring to the experience only punishes the entire cast at that point and the overworked teacher who must now re-cast the role somehow. That's not your right.

NEWSFLASH #6
Kids know so much more than you think. What kills me about this mentality is that they don't want their children to delve into these characters because they might "learn too much." If that's the problem, you better stop sending them to public school. This is THEIR world - not ours anymore. They already know SO MUCH MORE than we do.

NEWSFLASH #7
We are now sending our boys and girls out on missions the second they graduate high school. Then when they get back we are telling them to get married as soon as they can. Where's the scare tactic film for that scenario? Here's the GRAND CONUNDRUM: if you aren't married by 20 in this state, you have failed in your mission to fulfill the measure of your creation. No one ever wants you to take your time finding out who you are or let you develop your agency outside of your parents umbrella before they are tapping their foot and telling your boyfriend to "fish or cut bait."  (You know that wasn't the version of that cliche I was going to use but Andy said I had to "be nice.") So wouldn't you take an opportunity to let your child learn about relationships in high school under the watchful eye of an adult who is in control of the play (and the amount of kissing) step by step? Oh...right...this Facebooker, doesn't think the play is appropriate for anyone nor should kids be taking on roles as adults. There goes Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, South Pacific, Fiddler on the Roof, Les Mis..... Even in the play You Can’t Take It With You, the house is filled with a family that doesn't work, refuses to pay taxes and the maid's boyfriend spends the night. Its a well known classical fact that Oedipus had children with his mother and in Arsenic and Old Lace two old ladies that KILL people and bury them in their basement.

Years ago I used to direct musicals with junior high aged kids. These were kids ages 12 - 14. They were so awesome. It was, without a doubt, one of the greatest era's of my life. One to the first plays we did was Fiddler on the Roof. We watch sweet Motel and Tzeitel profess their love to each other and then eventually, once Tevye works his magic, they get married. Do you have them kiss at the end of that beautiful wedding scene? Yep. I did. Everybody is waiting for it. It's the denouement of that story line. Sort of like watching the past two seasons of 19 Kids and Counting. But do the drama teachers in UTAH have a 14 year-old kiss another 14 year-old, when most of the young people here are advised not to even date until they are 16? Well, first you should know that might be a possibility if your child auditions because you've read the play or asked the director.

Kissing serves many purposes and NOT ONE of them is to give your child the opportunity to kiss another child. Two characters in the play will kiss each other as a sign of the relationship progressing, or the finale of a wedding ceremony as a generally accepted sign of mutual agreement, or whatever. I won't be parading a bunch of junior high-aged kids through a kissing festival. It's just stupid and awkward anyway unless you control it in rehearsal. I know when enough is enough. However, she doesn't know me. She doesn't know that I'm not going to add gratuitous kissing on stage. I get that. But she didn't ask until AFTER the child had been cast in a role that required kissing and THEN she called Andy. Andy explained all that but still she pulled her kid out of the show. And she gets to do that because she is the parent. I get it. I just wish she would have let him do something in the show because he is about the sweetest most awesome kid in the world and I love working with him.

I. d.i.g.r.e.s.s!

To the credit of the owner of the thread, she deleted it and replaced it with an apology about a week after it began to roll forth. But it wasn't until there were about 40 opinions posted and lots of offended readers. Obviously, this post started many vehement conversations on both sides, and this blog. I was so impressed that there were many that were in favor of respecting the choices of the teacher and principal who have been given the right to choose the material based on their knowledge of the content area and the needs of the kids.

Of course you know what side I am going to take, every time and I am going to side with Brigham Young EVERY SINGLE TIME. I've posted this time and again, but can it be said too much? People were mad at Brigham Young for finishing the playhouse before he finished the temple. In fact, the theatre was the first building to be finished in the state. In response to this he states:

"Upon the stages of a theatre can be represented in character, evil and its consequences, good and its happy result and rewards; the weakness and the follies of man, the magnanimity of virtue and the greatness of truth. The stage can be made to aid the pulpit in impressing upon the minds of a community an enlightened sense of a virtuous life, and also a proper horror of the enormity of sin and a just dread of its consequences. The path of sin with its thorns and pitfalls, its gins and snares can be revealed, and how to shun it." (Discourses of Brigham Young, pg. 243)

Brigham Young wanted the early citizens of Utah to use the theatre as an "aid to the pulpit." Did binge watching Breaking Bad make me want to do meth? NO! Every meth dealer in the show got his due in the end or ran from it is as scared as I am. I don't even eat blue lifesavers anymore.

And that's the key maybe. What Brother Brigham was saying, essentially, is that the theatre can be used as a scare tactic. Why not? Why is it okay in schools to show the vile STD PowerPoint or the crash videos and not let kids re-enact adult roles "...impressing upon the minds of a community an enlightened sense of a virtuous life and also a proper horror of the enormity of sin ... and how to shun it?"

NEWSFLASH #8
It's 2015. If your kids made it through junior high, they've already seen it all.