One of my loves is thespianism, or amateur dramatics, to call it by its more well-known (and less mis-heard) name. The thrill of entertaining, the hard work on many rehearsal nights and the utter terror of fluffing it up in front of a live audience all combine into a hobby that is completely satisfying and jolly good fun. I generally enjoy the rehearsals far more than the performances. Rehearsals are where the cast goof off, laugh, mess up and generally get all the silliness out of the way.
Performance nights are when it all gets deadly serious, the adrenalin levels are high and the focus switches from entertaining ourselves to entertaining a paying audience. I love the rush I get in my chest before my first stage entrance, I stand ready in the wings, my hands sweaty, muttering my lines to myself and listening for my cue. That moment is equivalent to finding yourself alone with the hot girl you’ve fancied for months and you know this is the best (and probably only) chance you’ll get to ask her out for a drink!
My love of the stage goes back to when I was in my twenties and I managed, by accident more than design, to find myself in a couple of high profile local productions as well as various shows done with the church drama group, including a handful of pantomimes. The pantomime is a particularly British thing so any foreign readers may need to look that one up!
Unfortunately, work got in the way and I could no longer guarantee that I would not get called to a client halfway across the country a week before a show started. So I had to give up that hobby.
This changed two years ago and I’ve now found myself with stable work hours and a stable work commute. A very well respected local group, which puts on two shows a year, now gets my time two evenings a week. It’s a lot of hard work, matched by equal amounts of fun. The group performs in a small village hall and has some regular supporters who travel from the nearest city, 40 miles away, to see their shows.
It’s at this point that the issue of censorship comes up. Some of the groups’ supporters come from a church and our latest production, a mere six weeks away, includes profanity that comes under the banner of ‘taking the Lord’s name in vain’.
Someone from a church outside the area has read the script and complained to the chairperson of the committee responsible for the hall we use, who in turn passed on the complaint to the director of the play. The director herself is a Christian, and, with her husband, attends a local church. They aren’t offended by the langue used in the play. When she informed the cast of the conversation she’d had, the unsaid implication was that the route of communication used suggested that non-conformance with the complaint would result in some form of reprimand. Why didn’t the complainer go direct to the director to discuss the concerns? The director, a gentle and respected lady, was clearly bothered, and a little upset, by the conversation that she’d had.
Predictably, the cast are all furious. What has happened, is that some lines have been forced to be changed, by someone unconnected to the production, meaning that the rest of the visiting audiences will not get the performance planned by the team or a script as written by the author. Now, I am more than happy to concede that changing a couple of religious expletives to something less offensive to the minority isn’t a major blow to artistic licence. Amusingly (ironically?), a couple of the replacement phrases are actually funnier and add to the scene, though that is not true of all of them. Some are a loss too. The issue here isn’t so much about what has changed, it is that someone acquired a copy of the script to see what they would be offended by and, instead of choosing to avoid this show, they’ve forced it to be changed to suit their sensibilities. In doing that, they have ensured that everyone else gets their censored version of the show, not the show that was planned. Since when does any audience member get to have that power?
As a former believer, I do get the issue with blasphemy. It would have definitely jarred with me to hear “Christ!” uttered loudly in exasperation when other words could do the job effectively. I know Christians, who will come to see the show, who would feel the same if the phrase had remained unaltered. Does that give them the right to force a change? I don’t think so.
There are other parts of the play that the moralistic Christian could also feel aggrieved about. Here is a list:
- Casual racism
- Implied infidelity
- Blatant sexual innuendo
- Assumption of guilt before finding out the facts
- Admission of infidelity
- Constant verbal abuse of a wife by her husband
- Favourable discussion of prostitution
Shouldn’t a Christian be just as concerned about all of those too? If one feels it appropriate to demand lines get changed because they offend your god, why not the scenes that contain the above? Do they not offend?
My attitude towards religion has hardened. It isn’t a passive thing that people do, it’s a scourge that empowers the minority to dictate to the majority what they are allowed to enjoy. The sooner that power is weakened and removed, the better.