Friday, April 17, 2020

Play a Day: John Proctor is the Villain

Kimberly Belflower
To round out the week, I am enjoying a script that I have been looking forward to for months, yet purposefully avoided.

For Friday, I read John Proctor is the Villain by Kimberly Belflower and listed at New Play Exchange.

Last weekend my new play The Witches was to have received a workshop production at Cleveland Public Theatre. As I was trying to create a modern take on the historic events of the Salem Witch Panic fo 1692, I was worried that I might be influenced by this piece which has been getting a lot of attention.

I need not have worried. If anything, Belflower's play script has inspired me to return to my own text and push it further. Because her play is startlingly biting and beautiful and just what we need right now. I hope it gets produced all over the place.

And it is in reading such pieces that I feel challenged to create more and better work.

I love the title, that's first. And I was stunned and delighted that the holding company for Arthur Miller's written works granted permission for text from The Crucible to be quoted in this play. We could compare and contrast how those managing works by dead white men such as Samuel Beckett or Edward Albee have managed their estates, in this case I was gratified to know the keepers of Miller's work appreciate that criticism does not equal denigration.

Villain is a high school drama which excellently describes the familiar manner in which woman is still pitted against woman in American society, a society still haunted by its Puritanic roots, for the continued domination by men. The cracks are beginning to show, though the light shining through them remains dim. It's a hopeful story, but also realistic. There's so much work left to be done.

This script is tense, taut, humorous, dramatic, powerful, poetic, and devstating, and high schools everywhere should be producing this.

In the past two days, I have read plays about transgressive relationships between teacher and student, this one and Meet Me In The Bathroom. One of the iconic taboos, as it is not only a violation of our communal understanding that it is criminal for adults to engage in sexual activity with children, but also represents a violation in the bond of trust between student and mentor.

It is a power play; one uses their position of power to satisfy their own desires, with little or no regard for the damage that might cause the disempowered.

As a child, or pre-adolescent, I was exposed to the Kubrick film version of Lolita, and also the popular song which name checks the author of the novel from which it was adapted, "Don't Stand So Close to Me." At that time, in these cases, such titilating fare made an impression on me because I thought of mysef as the child, receiving forbidden knowledge, and not as the adult, and I was caught up in the romantic danger of it, instead of paying attention to the apparent damage it caused.

This was further complicated as I entered high school and as a freshman was complicit in turning a blind eye to an actual teacher-student relationship. "Tell my parents I'm with you," is a lie teenagers have been pressed into telling on their friend's behalf since the invention of the telephone.

Whether it be Nabokov or Sting, we used to learn about these stories from the predators point of view, one who positions himself (usualy himself) as the hero. Increasingly, as with these two scripts, we see it from the student's. And that is a powerful thing.

Who should I read tomorrow?



Read The Witches at New Play Exchange.

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