Of Idioms and Consequences

July 8th, 2013 by Cathy Plourde

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?


Why Men?

June 11th, 2013 by Cathy Plourde

On the male point of view:

When interviewing school-based advocates in Maine to learn what their experiences held for best practices, and what would they do with a magic wand, a woman named Angel offered a true north for the play: “I hate to say this but I am female, so when I open my mouth in front of groups of students I can just see the boys tune out.”  Angel pointed to a void of male voices speaking up against violence.  Her remark made it clear to me that this one-person, multi-character play I was trying to imagine would need to be male characters.

I interviewed advocates in Maine and around the US who had something to say about dating violence and sexual assault prevention efforts in high schools and colleges.  The pool of men doing the work was fairly small at the time, and all to whom I reached out to returned my calls, read drafts, and talked through what they saw as challenges, opportunities, and successes.

As my friend Norma Bowles of Fringe Benefits Theatre in Los Angeles, California said in a workshop she gave at and Association of Theatre in Higher Education conference in the early 2000’s, the goal was to reach the ‘mass in the middle’ and activate them as allies.  Most men are not perpetrators; most perpetrators are men. I wanted to create a series of characters with whom most men and boys could relate.

In the Australian version of “You the Man” Officer Friendly” (which was a joking reference to the DARE campaign) is now Constable Friend.  One of my favorite lines of his is a good summation of the movement’s agreement of cultivating empathy as  a prevention and intervention strategy: ” Not one of us, myself included, needs to wait for something terrible to happen before we act like we care.”

YES! (With enthusiasm!)

June 11th, 2013 by Cathy Plourde

Professor Ann Taket and I gave 7 presentations together: Melbourne City Center (Deakin’s meeting rooms), Geelong, Warrnambool, Deakin’s Burwood Campus, Bendigo, Benalla and Traralgon. Ann’s presented at one other place and is scheduling a few other gatherings. Over 250 people in Victoria!

I asked Ann what was surprising to her in our process of these presentations, and she said that the level as well as volume of enthusiasm. So what is making “You the Man” so appealing?

1. the design. The play sits at the center of a process of not just educating but engaging a community. It’s goal is to put the local resources front and center, and, to make their job easier.

2. the message. Men are key bystanders and key agents of change in preventing interpersonal violence. The play is packed with info that has been vetted by advocates and educators.

3. the method. Theatre is an affect experience. It goes to the heart, makes the issues real, and brings by it’s nature both need and urgency.

Who is enthusiastic?  All sorts of programs that are currently in the process of engaging men’s efforts in stopping violence against women: City Councils, Women’s Health, Salvation Army, Angelicare, Diversity and Inclusion, and more.