'Blue' words are worth talking about
February 26, 2009 · 2:09 PM
This is in response to Mr. Schonberger’s article, “Blue words: Frankly, my dear, I do give a damn,” page 7A, Feb. 18 Journal.
As you can see in the attached publicity flier/poster for the recent Playwrights’ Festival, it was stated very clearly that the “rating” was “R: Restricted: Adult Language & Situations” for these performances.
And while I think his idea for rating theatrical performances is a good one, I did not see any “excess of profanity” in the production, if one interprets that phrase to mean an inappropriate degree or amount.
The “blue” language was, in one play, meant to shock and rile another character, and, in the play I directed, “Rooster,” it was an amusing sidebar on one of my favorite topics, i.e. language should be situation/context dependent. The character corrects herself as she realizes she is in a more formal location than her language would indicate.
When I taught a communication class in an Illinois high school, contextual appropriateness was always the students’ favorite topic, because it gave them solid guidelines for what they knew to be true — namely that they could use different language with their peers than they could use with their parents.
I am very glad that Mr. Schonberger qualifies his criticism as not advocating censorship, and I sympathize with the quandary presented in any production — theater or film — that by its nature presents, simultaneously, two very different contexts.
The audience is one context that may preclude certain language among its members, and at the same time the performance is its own fictional context where a different language may be permissible. But this blurring of boundary between art and life is the energy of theater, and its way of making us re-think or clarify assumptions. Or at least discuss them, as our present conversation illustrates.
I was very impressed by the responsibility shown by the Community Theater in putting this “rating” front and center in its publicity. I have not seen it anywhere before. As a parent, I appreciated knowing that there was a question being raised about age-appropriateness.