The unconscionably cruel treatment of a young woman here has made me examine my own commitment to fair treatment of all people, and surely redouble my efforts at protecting everybody else.
If you are not apt to click on links: I refer, of course, to my display of the shooting of the Singing Telegram Girl -- played by Go-Gos guitarist Jane Wiedlin -- from the movie Clue.
Sure, it's funny and as out of context as is the entire film today, but wouldn't you know it? Within seconds of that post over at The Old Swamper's Almanac, I received a message that urged me to tell my representatives in the legislature to support the International Violence Against Women Act (HR 4594 and S 2982). It quoted a horrific statistic that I will repeat here in big letters:
One in three girls will be assaulted in their lifetimes.
With this terror and recent events here and elsewhere fresh in my mind, I must make the following confession:
I once raised my hand to a woman. For two weeks.
Wednesday through Saturday, twice on Wednesday and one Sunday matinee. People paid three dollars to see and I got twenty-one bucks a week later. Paid in cash. In an envelope with the Theater department head's name crossed out, and mine misspelled under the sullen smudge of red ink.
And, thanks to an uninspired and awkward and cliché blackout, I never struck her.
You see, it was in the theater.
I was squandering valuable hippocampus neuronal synapses, portraying "the bad guy" in an AWful "experimental" "theater-noir" don't-put-this-on-the-résumé black box production of a grad student's project written after a forlorn and self-indulgent binge-drinking afternoon bewailing the loss of her slacker boyfriend (which is what we called "hipsters" at the time). The play was brutally conceived in her head, horrifically executed on the page, and morbidly undertaken on the stage. I sincerely apologize to any of the thirty-one people who could stomach the senselessness over the week which bore the hardship.
Usually, it is a challenging and joy-filled task, devising a characterization from essentially nothing. But this particular exercise was horrible. The director, rumor had it, was an over-entitled trustafarian shy one "media and mass communication" credit; I never met him. He didn't think it was his responsibility to attend rehearsals. The author was present but silent, smoking clove cigarettes in the cramped riser seats. She disappeared for an entire week of production. The other actors smoked outside until they were called and avoided me, the older guy.
Without backstory, character notes, substantive clues from dialogue or any sort of direction, I was left to render a passable Sterling Hayden impersonation for my introductory -- and only -- line and sat at a table recreating his stoic demeanor in Asphalt Jungle while my scene partner recited a litany of insults in a seven-page monologue. Until my sole stage direction: He runs across the room and slaps her.
"Don't hit girls!" "Never strike a lady!" "Leave your sister alone!" rang in my head. Injunctions learned in childhood, delivered in tones that assured their consequence. The first two were mere moral instructions, since I was raised to live a moral life in polite society. (The last probably had nothing to do with me, but more as a palliative offered to the older sibling on the long car ride to Grandma's.) It just never occurred to me that violence in any form was the correct answer to disputes between the genders. And if ever it were, there would be my shattered conscience to pay with guilt, with my bankrupt morality and possibly neuroses.
The eventuality of such a violent act only precipitates the very reaction that I felt on that stage over and over again: I would rather my arm fall off at the shoulder than let my hand fly in an atrocious mistake.
I could have easily blocked a bit of business involving my downstage hand and my partner's reaction. It's a usual throwaway bit of stage combat. Instead, I insisted that when I raised my arm, the lights would go pitch black, framing the tableau forever for the audience.
I employed clever sophistry to secure a lighting trick instead of a blocking trick. Which worked rather effectively except for during the Sunday matinee when there was external light. Which diminished the dramatic effect considerably.
Every home should be safe and every partner should be an equal.
I hope that some good can come of this misfortune.