Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Look where my abridgment comes

This news item was passed along by reader A.Z. -- detailing a school district in Mesa, Arizona taking a field trip to see the farce The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), only to be sent packing when an unnamed school official deemed the play "inappropriate."

The Complete Works... is a whimsical and irreverent trek through the Shakespeare canon, typically very improvisational, that was first performed by the Reduced Shakespeare Company in 1987 and has afforded actors, class clowns and perennial hams the opportunity to chew scenery whilst waxing pseudo-Bardolic for two decades running. The one production of The Complete Works that I saw, in New Haven about ten years ago, was certainly enjoyable and, at times, gut-bustingly funny. But its unabashed bawdiness could -- I suspect -- readily be deemed inappropriate for schoolkids as young as sixth grade.

Yeah, yeah, I know... they see this stuff every day on their TVs and play it on their Xbox'es. But, said the unnamed school official, "That's not what we believe in presenting to our students."

I'm inclined to chalk this whole incident up to an underpaid, overworked teacher somewhere seeing the name Shakespeare on a flyer and thinking, Edith Bunker-like, "Saay, here's some cultcha for the kids!"

I also suspect if those same censorious authorities actually knew how much "inappropriate" material is in even the greatest Shakespeare plays, they'd be burning as many copies of the real Complete Works of Shakespeare as they could get their little Jergens-moisturized palms on.

Case in point: Macbeth. Listen to this cool (unfortunately, incomplete) podcast series from 2005 and marvel at the Scots tragedy's dirty little secret: This play practically revels in torture porn.

Just goes to show how important it is to speak your most unpleasant truths in a language the hoi polloi cannot comprende. Why do you think Hamlet uses such fancy words?


TBrew said...

I'd be interested to know what you think of Nuttall's Shakespeare the Thinker. Of course, I'm sure you are busy, and probably don't want to go "on record" either.

Mark said...

I have not yet had the chance to read this book, although from what I've seen, A.D. Nuttall doesn't much concern himself with the Stratford biography. So already, one can tell that he's off to a great start!