Thursday, July 21, 2005

Blackboard Jugular!

I was about to put the paper bag over my head as the Yoko Ono track began to play.

Wait a minute. Let’s back up.

Before we continue, it would probably be helpful to examine some of the radical developments in psychotherapy that occurred during the tail end of the ‘60’s and the beginning of the ‘70’s.

R.D. Laing became notable for theories that held that madness and schizophrenia may not be illnesses at all, but a kind of healthy reaction to the stress and crises of life. He considered the possibility that patients were going through a learning process, almost a shamanic journey, that would allow them to return better integrated than before.

Arthur Janov’s “Primal Scream” therapy attempted to help patients by getting them to feel and express the sadness and pain they’d long suppressed. This involved having them scream until they reached a point where they could finally experience their real pain and, having finally lived through it, they could then release it.

It was Janov’s “Primal Scream” therapy that attracted John and Yoko Lennon. Upon completing the treatment, the couple recorded a pair of remarkable solo albums that reflected the experience.

The Yoko album especially fascinated me. It had all the power of rock ‘n’ roll, along with wild improvisation and incredibly creative guitar pyrotechnics from John. I listened to it a lot.

So when it came time for me to put together my dramatic monologue, all of these things sort of melded together into a sort of performance piece that I imagined was in the spirit of Yoko’s notion of conceptual art.

It was, in the context of this class, an unusual presentation.

I had one of those school record players wheeled in, you know, the kind that look like industrial appliances? As the track began to play (this one featuring Yoko with Ornette Coleman on trumpet), I strode over to the blackboard and wrote the word Knots, the name of the Laing work I would begin to recite portions of.

Knots was an unusual, poetic attempt to follow the endless complications of the human mind, for example:

They are playing a game.
They are playing at not playing a game.
If I show them I see they are, I shall break the rules and they will punish me. I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game.

But before I began the recitation (which I had memorized), I put a paper bag over my head (another nod to Yoko?). The paradox was that I held a complete typed script in my hands in front of me the entire time which I could not see.

This was the first time Selma Dombrowski had ever seen a student in one of her classes present a monologue with a lunch bag over his head. I have to think she was intrigued.

As the musicians reached a crescendo of sound, with Yoko screaming full tilt, I then withdrew the water pistol I’d hidden on my person and shot it at the chalk title I’d written on the blackboard, eliminating it. This was, I decided, the high point of the work. It would be up to my fellow classmates to crack its arcane code.

I resumed speaking until I finally reached the last two lines of my recitation, and the book:

The statement is pointless
The finger is speechless

Having concluded, I took the script solidly in hand and ripped it to pieces, scattering the pieces over the heads of my fellow students like confetti, many of them seemingly unable to move.

My cogent reflection on the nature of modern communication, or lack of it, was now in their court, awaiting judgement.

There was a deathly silence.

I could almost palpably feel the class longing for The Star to return to center stage, bringing with him all the traditions of the theatre that he represented and championed, turning the universe right-side up once more. As for The Star himself, although he seemed slightly dazed by it all, his jaw was firmly set as if he had already begun to assimilate whatever lesson was here to be learnt.

“Well,” said Selma Dombrowski, brushing aside a few errant pieces of script, “I think it would be interesting to hear some opinions about this.”

Conclusion: A Madness To My Method


Anonymous Cleetus Santana said...

It warms the heart to her your story- I too was in a High School Drama class with a Beatles motif. Our teacher had given us all the same set of lines and our task was to construct a scene around them. The lines seemed like complete gobbledygoop to my teenage mind but thought they would be appropriate for doing a scene as an Indian Holy Man- lighting incense while assuming the lotus postion. As my scene progressed, George's "The Inner Light" played..."Arrive without traveling- See all without looking- Do all without doing..."

Friday, July 22, 2005 10:24:00 PM  
Blogger Count Screwloose said...

Glad to hear I wasn't alone...

You'll notice nobody ever used Ringo to express themselves, though.

I'm guessing you'll also remember (I was guilty of doing this myself, I'm sure) those times when students had to bring in a poem to analyze and many of them would bring in the lyrics to Magic Carpet Ride or something because "they're a sort of poetry, too."

Why don't you tell your dreams to me, indeed?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005 9:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Dennis said...

Nice to see you mention Janov. There's a new open Forum about Primal Theory and Practice and we need some people expressing and discussing their ideas.

Feel free to drop by.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 1:19:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home