This week I’m working with a group of 14-year-olds for an English project week.
During the week they have the opportunity to attend different workshops, one of which is drama. I was assigned to the drama workshop and after a few drama games I broke the kids up into smaller groups and told them to start thinking about script ideas. I gave them some time to talk amongst themselves before making my way around to each group to check in on them and help them with their ideas. Everything was going fine until I stopped to talk to one group. And then things just got confusing.
There are three guys and two girls in this particular group, and the story they came up with went a little something like this:
Girl 1 is in love with Guy 1 and Guy 1 is in love with Girl 1. But Girl 2 is also in love with Guy 1. Then there is Guy 2, who is in love with Girl 2 but also happens to be bisexual. Guy 3 is Girl 1’s gay best friend and is in love with Guy 2. Girl 2 decides that she needs to find a way to get Girl 1 out of the picture so she can get with Guy 1, so she asks Guy 2 to murder Girl 1. Guy 2 complies in the hopes that doing so will make Girl 2 realise that she is actually madly in love with him. Devastated by the loss of Girl 1, Guy 1 takes his own life in order to join his star-crossed lover. Then Girl 2 realises what a bitch she was, and takes her life in a similar fashion. Guy 2 comes to terms with her death, realizing that she wasn’t actually the girl for him. Guy 3, who has been pining for Guy 2 the whole time, finally starts a conversation with Guy 2, who falls in love with Guy 3. It remains to be seen whether or not they live happily ever after…
It took me a while to figure out the intricacies of this love pentagon, but once everything was clear, I left the group and headed to the next, trying to figure out what I should do with these little 14-year-olds.
On the one hand, I think it is interesting that they came up with this plot on their own and that they were all having a great time figuring out who does what to whom and who ends up with whom. But on the other hand, can I let them put this play up on a stage in front of their parents, teachers and fellow students, many of who are much younger than they are?
And did I mention that these kids attend a school that is located in an active abbey?
Interestingly enough, the issue isn’t the murder. In these sorts of student productions there are always a few murders. But I’ve never seen students want to do a show with so many sexual facets, or even one where two guys end up together. It seems like exactly the sort of thing you would think I would approve of, right? And in theory I do; it shows that the students are at least thinking about these issues at their age with an open mind. I’m just worried about this particular venue.
I suppose some might think that 14 is not a mature enough age to be thinking about these things. But who are we kidding? We were all little horn dogs at that age.
I started having sex when I was 14, and had already started jacking off years before that. And let me tell you, I was not the only one in my school dealing with surging hormones. Parents might not like to admit it, but at 14, pretty much all of us were revved up and chomping at the bits. Which makes it a shit time to shut down their attempts to work out what all these hormones and signals mean, especially when it’s in an innocuous five-minute play and not in some random bed.
What’s more, when I was 14, I remember some of the faculty at my high school freaking out because the drama teacher was gay. At one point I was pulled into a school board meeting to testify against him based on a piece he had had us working on: one person played a doctor and another the patient. A typical scenario, but in some cases there was a guy playing the doctor and another guy playing the patient because there were more guys than girls in that class.
But oh, how some members of the faculty railed against it. “Boys shouldn’t be playing doctor with each other!” they screamed, and I thought they were fucktards for doing so. I mean, that say a lot about their opinions of doctor/patient relationships.
If teachers can force students to think about sexuality by telling them a harmless doctor scene is inappropriate because it involves boys touching boys, why shouldn’t I let my kids put on their play in the abbey? Is it not simply the other side of that same discussion?
Plus, lord knows how many of the monks are doing it with each other anyway; the audience may actually be perfect…
The sad thing is, I’ve seen students do similar plays in which all of the lovers were heterosexual, and none of the teachers ever raised an eyebrow. The murder wasn’t necessarily a problem, Hell, kids are exposed to that sort of shit all the time in video games, films, TV series, YouTube videos and all sorts of other media.
Tomorrow I’m going to talk to the teacher at the school. I’m only here for one week doing this project, so she can better judge whether or not this sort of thing will fly with the parents and faculty. But I think I’ll at least push for the kids to be able to put their play on stage. It was, after all, their idea and not mine, and I think that is telling.
But I’d be interested to hear what you think about this. If it’s true that no matter how open a discussion can become there are times and venues where such discussion is not appropriate, then does this qualify as one such instance? Or should the students be allowed to proudly forge ahead with their provocative scene?