Sunday, April 22, 2007


In the wake of Monday's massacre at Virginia Tech in which a student killed 32 people, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg has limited the use of stage weapons in theatrical productions. Students involved in this weekend's production of "Red Noses" said they first learned of the new rules on Thursday morning, the same day the show was slated to open. They were subsequently forced to alter many of the scenes by swapping more realistic-looking stage swords for wooden ones, a change that many students said was neither a necessary nor a useful response to the tragedy at Virginia Tech.

According to students involved in the production, Trachtenberg has banned the use of some stage weapons in all of the University's theatrical productions. While shows will be permitted to use obviously fake plastic weapons, students said, those that hoped to stage more realistic scenes of stage violence have had to make changes to their props. Trachtenberg could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

"Red Noses" director Sarah Holdren '08 said she first heard about the changes in a phone call from a friend as she arrived at the Off-Broadway Theater on Thursday morning. At the theater, technical director Jim Brewczynski told her about the new regulations. The pair then met with Trachtenberg, who initially wanted no stage weapons to be used in the show, Holdren said, though she later agreed to permit the use of obviously fake weapons.

In a speech made before last night's opening show of "Red Noses," Holdren said that Trachtenberg's decision to force the production to use wooden swords instead of metal swords will do little to stem violence in the world. "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."

Holdren said she is primarily worried about the University's decision to place limitations on art, rather than the specific inconvenience to her production. "I completely understand that the University needs to respond to the tragedy, but I think it is wrong to conflate sensitivity and censorship," she said in an interview. "It is wrong to assume that any theater that deals with tragic matter is sort of on the side of those things or out to get people; they're not - they're out to help people through things like this. I want my show and all shows to be uplifting to people. That's why I'm upset about this - it's not because my props were taken - it's about imposing petty restrictions on art as the right way to solve the problems in the world."

Brandon Berger '10, who plays a swordsman in the show, said the switch to an obviously fake wooden sword has changed the nature of his part from an "evil, errant knight to a petulant child."


Fred Thompson gets it

Some people think that power should exist only at the top, and everybody else should rely on "the authorities" for protection. Despite such attitudes, average Americans have always made up the front line against crime. Through programs like Neighborhood Watch and Amber Alert, we are stopping and catching criminals daily. Normal people tackled "shoe bomber" Richard Reid as he was trying to blow up an airliner. It was a truck driver who found the D.C. snipers. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that civilians use firearms to prevent at least a half million crimes annually.

When people capable of performing acts of heroism are discouraged or denied the opportunity, our society is all the poorer. And from the selfless examples of the passengers on Flight 93 on 9/11 to Virginia Tech professor Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor who sacrificed himself to save his students earlier this week, we know what extraordinary acts of heroism ordinary citizens are capable of.

Many other universities have been swayed by an anti-gun, anti-self defense ideology. I respect their right to hold those views, but I challenge their decision to deny Americans the right to protect themselves on their campuses - and then proudly advertise that fact to any and all.

Whenever I've seen one of those "Gun-free Zone" signs, especially outside of a school filled with our youngest and most vulnerable citizens, I've always wondered exactly who these signs are directed at. Obviously, they don't mean much to the sort of man who murdered 32 people just a few days ago.


Excerpt from Belmont Club: "Malevolence lives in the mind much more than it does in inamate things. Recently the quarter-century crime statistics of two towns, one in Georgia and the other in Illinois were compared. One had forbidden the ownership of guns and the other had made their possession mandatory. The results as you may or may not have guessed, are that crimes in Guntown had dropped while crimes, especially violent crimes in the Gunfree-zone had soared. Like the Virginia Tech incident, people will debate the meaning of these statistics. But like the Virginia Tech case it ought to raise the question of whether, in regulating things, we are regulating the wrong object."

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