It’s that people like Lynnette Conti Dinello, Principal of J H Brooks Elementary School in Moon Township, PA, are in charge of education. Before you think me too harsh, please know that I have spent almost a decade of my life as at least a part-time acting/theatre instructor. My parents are both educators (now happily retired) and I have lived my entire adult life as an actor or bartender (both people businesses where you have to give others the benefit of the doubt). So please, listen to my tale of incredible idiocy.
For those who don’t know, I am touring a theatre production, The Boston Tea Party, to elementary and middle schools across the country for the entire 2006/07 school year. It is an educational show (duh!) teaching about the events and reasons thereof leading up to the American Revolution (you know: taxes, lack of voting representation, shootings, forced billeting, etc.)
Now, we don’t show up at random schools and force them to watch our show. The schools are actually contacted and informed about several shows that they may want to book. They are informed about what each show is, the costs, the content, etc. So, each school is completely aware of what they are booking, what educational content it has, what curriculum standards it addresses, what age levels it is appropriate for, all that good stuff.
Well, Ms. Conti Dinello seems to have some issues with the show that she, herself, booked. Let’s take a look at what those might be:
1. She doesn’t want guns used, even really fake-looking ones.
2. She doesn’t want people using fingers to represent guns.
3. She doesn’t want noises that sound like guns to be used in the show.
4. She doesn’t want people falling down as if they were shot.
5. She doesn’t want violence represented in any way on stage.
6. She hopes this won’t compromise our show…about THE F*$KING START OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY WAR!!!
I do understand that we live in weird times with school shootings and all, but you have to make rational decisions in life. How to describe our show…hmmm, let’s see, uh…it’s not The Deer Hunter. It’s a very broad, slap-sticky sort of show you’d see at a Fringe or Renaissance Festival. It’s fast paced, funny, not terribly serious, very cartoony, and highly educational in a memorable sort of way.
If you are so worried about the possible psychological scarring of your students, perhaps the answer is to NOT BOOK THE SHOW. Why are you going to make us book a hotel, drive to your little, crap school, and then not let us do our show? Sorry, the school probably isn’t crap…just its principal.
Trying to be as fair as possible, she did say that the show seemed like a good idea this summer, but not now. Still, just cancel the show; I wouldn’t mind having a half day off. It is absolutely insane to think that you can book a show about the start of a war and excise all of the parts about war.
I talked to this woman on the phone for ten minutes trying to explain the purpose of our show, the purpose of the things we do in it and why they are necessary or in what ways they can be modified. She wasn’t hearing any of it.
Now we have a scene about George Washingon and the French and Indian War. We get a student up to play Geo Washington, give him a floppy, leather dagger and have him act in the scene. We, ourselves, mime using lightsabers Yes, that’s right, we MIME–as in don’t really hold–weapons that don’t even exist. That’s how goof-ball our show is about violence. But, all of this is now out–guess the French and Indian War wasn’t that important in American history.
We also have a scene about the shooting of Crispus Attucks, the freed slave that was shot in the streets by Bristish regulars. We have a student play Crispus Attucks and they probably remember more about that event than anything else in the show. This scene is out–can’t have people dying for any cause, bad or good–that’s not how this country was founded.
The finale of our show is “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World”. Uh, this scene is hard to do without a shot. I guess it’ll have to be out. This of course means that the Revolutionary War never began. I guess we’re all still British….
Principal Dinello did say that we could “narrate” those parts. I’m pretty sure that she thinks “narrate” and “theatre” are the same thing, though I’m not exactly sure what she means by “narrate”. I think that she might want us to stop “performing” and “lecture” the “offensive” scenes to the students. So, I tried to explain that the reason educational plays are effective is that they are absolutely NOT LIKE a lecture or a textbook. I told her that the moment we stop performing and start the lecturing, the kids will go away and we will never get them back; they’ll tune out. This will happen in scene 2. She was hearing none of it.
So, if anyone knows Principal Dinello, or if you are in fact, yourself, Principal Dinello:
LET US SLEEP IN!!!
Or, better yet, let your kids see the show you booked. Who knows, you and your students may learn something.