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Theatre Of The Absurd And The Asinine

April 24, 2007

I don't know whether to feel delighted or troubled by two strange news items I read just now:

1) A Yale administrator has banned the use of any kind of weapon on stage in student productions out of fear of how audiences might react in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings last week. Dean of Student Affairs at Yale, Betty Trachtenberg is reported in to have said in an email to a student director:

“Given the events of a few days ago in Virginia I question, at this time, the use of even a prop hand gun in this (or other productions). I suggest that you find another way.”

2) Monologist Mike Daisey was severely traumatized when a Christian group confronted him en masse in the middle of a recent performance of his latest solo show, Invincible Summer, at Harvard University's American Repertory Theatre. Daisey's blog entry on the A.R.T. website describes the incident as follows:

"I am performing the show to a packed house, when suddenly the lights start coming up in the house as a flood of people start walking down the aisles–they looked like a flock of birds who’d been startled, the way they all moved so quickly, and at the same moment…it was shocking, to see them surging down the aisles. The show halted as they fled, and at this moment a member of their group strode up to the table, stood looking down on me and poured water all over the outline, drenching everything in a kind of anti-baptism."

On the positive side of things, I am excited that live theatre still moves people to do such drastic, crazy things. But, really, this news scares more than thrills me.

What happened in Virginia was horrific, but banning the use of wooden swords and plastic revolvers on stage is not a way to send out a message to student body about gun control issues. What have the events at Virginia Tech got to do with a Yale student production of Accidental Death of an Anarchist? The blogosphere might be full of posts comparing Virginia gunman Cho Seung Hui and anti-government nut-jobs like Timothy McVeigh, but there's nothing linking Cho's actions and those of the suspected bank bomber in Dario Fo's play other than the shadow of death.

And with regards to Daisey's ordeal at A.C.T., all I can ask is this: What was a bunch of theatre-hating god squadders doing wasting their time and money at Daisey's show in the first place?

Asinine and Absurd are the two main adjectives that spring to mind when I think about what happened on the Yale and Harvard campuses. I don't know, those Ivy League schools...



  • As a theatre professor, I am deeply shocked by the Yale decision. One only hopes that they soon see how insane their decision is. As the Artistic Director of a theatre company, I'm wildly jealous of Mike Daisey's good fortune-- you can't buy that kind of publicity. ;-)

    In all seriousness, today Mike chronicled in his blog his experience having a phone conversation with the man who destroyed his notes-- and all I can say about it is: Mike Daisey is a better person than I am.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 24, 2007 at 3:39 PM  

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