Under certain and very specific conditions, of which my students were all fully advised and aware, swearing in scripts and scene work in my classes was condoned.
Blind censorship does not help anyone to think critically on their own. Learning how to discern between what is gratuitous or simply added for shock value and what is critical to the character or the situation is a valuable learning skill for artists and audiences.There was one dirty four letter word one word however, that students were never, ever, ever, ever allowed to use in my studio:
I became the horrified drama queen if a student referred to their work as a skit. I’d gasp. or moan, or sometimes, shriek.
“YOU SAID THE FOUR LETTER WORD!”
What’s so wrong with the word, they’d ask.
“Boy Scouts do skits! Camp kids do skits! MATH teachers do skits!. Drama students DO NOT DO or even say that four letter word that begins with an “s” and ends with a “t” – and it’s not “SHIT”!
It was as much fun as the times I’d send them outside the studio to spit, spin and swear for that other taboo word. Honestly though, like most drama teachers, the hair still stands on the back of my neck when I hear the word “skit”.
After years, I finally came up with an explanation that made sense:
A SKIT IS TO THEATRE, WHAT DOODLING IS TO ART.
So, on this lazy Sunday morning, I stumbled across a great little website http://kerbyrosanes.com/ that made me think of doodles and skits and inspired today’s blog.
Perhaps one can find artistic merit in doodles and skits, after all.
When I first arrived as Mowat, as Head of Drama in September 1989, I informed our principal (who we shall call Mr. A.) that our first production of the season would be One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It had been a few years since the drama department had mounted a play at that school; he simply nodded his head, made a note of the November dates in his calendar and he gave the quick go-ahead.
Two days before opening night Mr. A. apparently in a panic called one of the senior cast members, Jeff Jones, to his office. He seemed very anxious and asked him how rehearsal were going. Jeff said they were going great. After hemming and hawing, Mr. A. finally asked Jeff if the play was “like the movie” which he had finally rented the night before. Jeff assured him that the stage play was considerably different and many of the scenes in Nicholson film aren’t in the play. Mr. A. seemed relieved.
There were many brilliant moments in the play and that cast – with Alex Pearson, Jeff Jones, Chris Scholey, Jeff Logue and many others – may have been one of the best companies I’ve ever worked with. The one actor I cast as one of the “incurables” Ruckley was a hulk of guy – well over 6 feet tall and 200 pounds. His costume was nothing more than an adult diaper. For most of the play, Ruckley stood upstage with his arms outstretched as if crucified. But at critical moments he stepped out of his catatonia and boomed in a deep baritone voice: “F-F-F FUCK ‘EM ALL!” It was one of my all time favorite stage moments. The effect was both hilarious and unsettling for the audience.
Opening night sold out and the 700 seat auditorium was filled with students, parents and community members. We placed Mr. A. in the VIP section of the house and strategically I sat a few seats behind him. The lights went down and the play begin. When Ruckley spoke his first line there was a considerable shift in the energy of the audience. Before the laughter erupted it seemed as if every single person in the audience took their eyes off the stage and turned their heads to see Mr. A’s reaction. He slumped a couple of inches lower in his seat every time the f-bomb was dropped. By the end of the show, he could barely be seen from behind. I can’t remember if he stood at the end (which got a full standing ovation every night) but I do know it wasn’t until much later, Mr. A. finally commented about the play and that night.
When I wished Mr. A. a happy retirement years afterwards, he smiled and asked me if I knew how upset he was with Cuckoo’s Nest. He said that he went home that night and didn’t know what he would do with me, once the dozens of complaints and grievances would pour in. But much to his surprise, he didn’t get a single complaint. Not one.
Mr. A. looked me in the eye and said, “I still don’t understand why not. Can you tell me why nobody complained?”
I do know Mr. A. but if you couldn’t figure it out, I don’t think you’ll ever understand.