Of Idioms and Consequences

I say Officer.  You say Constable. Store? Shop. Trash? Rubbish.

Some of the translation process of creating an Australian version of You the Man involved just specific words.  Other points of translation required considering what was meant, and how that might be best delivered idomatically.  Case in point, when Officer Friendly says:   Did you know that approximately 73% of all rapes are committed by friends, family members, and acquaintances? Apparently, it’s not that masked stranger in a dark alley that a woman has to fear as much as she has to fear the smiling faces around her. That’s a conversation stopper all right.  

Constable Friend now says: That’s a barbeque stopper all right.

But the most extensive changes came when translating American sports culture to Australian sports culture.  Basketball is equal opportunity in the US.  Footy (Australian Rule Football) was the closest we could come.  We wanted to examine the gender box, issues of loyalty, and what someone has to lose.


American Version: The Virgin Larry (Virg for short)

I tell ya, the way people talk about sex all the time, you’d think half the world was gettin’ it daily. In the movies, it’s like they kiss, and baddah-boom, you know, then, next instant, they’re doin’ it. Come on-it’s not like you can pick up a basketball and then be in the NBA. And people keep your score. Everyone’s waitin’ for you to kiss and tell. Now me, I was a late bloomer. Back in the day, I got the nickname The Virgin Larry … ‘Virg’ for short. Yeah, pretty funny, day in and day out, “Hey, Virg-great moves with the ball today … too bad you can’t score in bed like you score on the court.”  And if gay-dar radar’s turned on you, well buckle up, buddy, ’cause it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. “Hey Virg-if I ever hear you shooting for the other team, you can kiss your sorry ass goodbye !”  Nice. I got the first chick into bed that I could. It went well. No. Actually. Things were a little … premature. Hey, I mean that in several ways. They call that irony. Pretty funny. No it isn’t. You think it’s been easy having the nickname the Virgin Larry?


Aussie Version:  The Virgin Barry (VB for short)

You’d think half the world was getting’ it daily.  Movies, ads, the net – sex on tap.  Easy. But it’s not like you can just pick up a ball and get drafted, I don’t reckon. They call me the Virgin Barry – VB for short.  Great.  Is it my fault I’m a kick behind the play? “Hey VB,” they say, “too bad you can’t score where it counts.” And if gay-dar radar is turned on you well it’s bums to the wall, mate.  I got the first chick I could into bed.  How’d it go? Well, no pressure right? Let’s just say I fumbled the ball.  Lucky no-one around here keeps score.

In Australia footy is played in a club system–and correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems if every town’s got at least one club!  The players are mostly older than Americans playing for the college systems, and playing has nothing to do with university, scholarships or feeding into the NBA draft system.  The question was, what does VB have to lose by not taking action and being complicit in his friend’s atrocious actions of taping sex with a woman without her knowledge, and having sex without her consent, and, doing so after being asked to stop… a few times?  In theatre, it’s the writer’s job to create the stakes, and they need to be high.

In the American version Virg stands to lose his scholarship and is looking at a possible expulsion–as are all of the others who were there.  In the Aussie version, VB is looking at legal action being taken by the league’s lawyers.

Several years ago the show was presented at the National Women’s Studies pre-conference for the Women’s Centers association.  An audience conversation went something like this between a woman from a high profile Division I NCAA basketball school in Georgia (let’s call her Georgia) who worked in the Women’s Resource Center, and Lisa Jo Epstein, a friend who is trained in Theatre of the Oppressed by Augusto Boal:

GA: Well, that’s nice that there were consequences for the basketball player, but that’s pretty unrealistic.

LJE: Why is it unrealistic?

GA: Well, losing a scholarship?  Expulsion?  I work at [!!] and that would never ever happen.

LJE: Well, what would happen?

GA: I don’t know. Nothing.

LJE:  Maybe what this play can do for us is not replay reality just as it is.  Maybe it can help us ask, “what would happen at my university, and is that okay? Is it enough?” 

It’s not the job of theatre to recreate reality, but to offer a reflection of reality.  Standard principles of TO is in taking on reality and oppression, and then offering possibilities for alternatives, choices, and potential change.

I loved Lisa Jo’s question: What would happen, and are we okay with that?


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