Yale University Responds to Virginia Tech Shootings by Banning Stage Weapons
In the wake of Monday’s massacre at Virginia Tech in which a student killed 32 people, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg has limited the use of stage weapons in theatrical productions.
Students involved in this weekend’s production of “Red Noses” said they first learned of the new rules on Thursday morning, the same day the show was slated to open. They were subsequently forced to alter many of the scenes by swapping more realistic-looking stage swords for wooden ones, a change that many students said was neither a necessary nor a useful response to the tragedy at Virginia Tech.
According to students involved in the production, Trachtenberg has banned the use of some stage weapons in all of the University’s theatrical productions. While shows will be permitted to use obviously fake plastic weapons, students said, those that hoped to stage more realistic scenes of stage violence have had to make changes to their props.
Yeah, that's the answer. Ban realistic props in university theatre departments. Because, you know, there's a long-established link between violent plays and violence in society. Everyone remembers how the Columbine killers spent every available weekend watching violent plays together and memorizing violent monologues. Remember how the Unabomber's manifesto threatened to "go all Richard III" if his demands weren't met? That was scary. And I'm sure in the next few days NBC will release pictures the Virginia Tech killer took of himself dressed as Thyestes, Iago, and Medea.
Fake-looking weapons are the answer, you see, because the audience is incapable of realizing for themselves that those people on the stage in front of them, separated by seating, lighting, costumes, makeup, set and props, are actually only pretending to engage in violent behavior. The solution: wooden swords, of course.
Congratulations, Dean Trachtenberg. For at least a day or two, you have made all other idiots in America a little bit smarter in comparison with you. "Knee-jerk," "overreaching," and "ignorant" are only the first three words that spring to mind. "Censorship" is another.
Red Noses director Sarah Holdren announced before the show, "Calling for an end to violence onstage does not solve the world’s suffering: It merely sweeps it under the rug, turning theater — in the words of this very play — into 'creamy bon-bons' instead of 'solid fare' for a thinking, feeling audience. Here at Yale, sensitivity and political correctness have become censorship in this time of vital need for serious artistic expression." Holdren is a junior (class of '08), and Red Noses is an extremely challenging play. Big ups to her for her ability to handle this ridiculous situation.
The cast of Twelfth Night learned of this story in the van after a performance late last night (thanks to Grant Mudge's father for emailing it to him). Some of us were surprised that they even performed at all. Some of us were surprised that they caved.
Personally, I think they should have performed the show, as rehearsed, with stage weapons, until the administration had the lights turned out--then they should have kept performing by candle- or flashlight.
I'm very interested in hearing the thoughts of my fellow performing artists.