As with any tragedy, organizations have responded to the Virginia Tech massacre with heightened sensitivity to violent images. NBC released only a few of the nearly two dozen videos Cho Seung-Hui recorded and sent to the network, while other networks refused to show any of them. SNL tastefully pulled its brilliant OC parody from YouTube, seeing as it ends with six bloodied bodies littering the floor. (Rather, the network tried to pull it. You can still find the video, the original OC clip, and various parodies of the parody.) Both of these moves seemed the smart, polite things to do.
And then there’s Yale’s response. In the wake of the VT shooting, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg has banned the use of realistic stage weapons in Yale theater productions. The rule doesn’t apply just to guns. Now, instead of using mean-looking swords, actors will have to fight with plastic or wooden swords. Presumably, the duel scene in Hamlet will be performed with two of those plastic fold-out light sabers that glow and make noise when they clash: “A touch [wuuoow], a touch, I do confess! [ksshhh!]”
Student director Sarah Holden, ’08, gave a short speech before the Thursday night performance of her play, “Red Noses”:
“Calling for an end to violence onstage does not solve the world’s suffering: It merely sweeps it under the rug, turning theater — in the words of this very play — into ‘creamy bon-bons’ instead of ‘solid fare’ for a thinking, feeling audience,” she said. “Here at Yale, sensitivity and political correctness have become censorship in this time of vital need for serious artistic expression.”
Clearly, institutions need to respond appropriately to tragedy. Insulting the intelligence of Yale theatergoers doesn’t quite count. Until the ban’s reversed, Yale productions will probably look something like this.
Trachtenberg did not respond to an e-mail sent late Sunday. This isn’t the first time she’s pulled amateur hour on the Yale performing arts, as the Suite 13 guys know — so if anyone has Betty T stories, we’re collecting.