Thursday, February 26, 2015

Gidion's Knot

Play #36 - Gidion's Knot by Johnna Adams

This was a tough play to read - particularly the end, because I get overly emotional about cats.


Let me explain.

Heather Clark is a fifth grade teacher, sitting in her classroom grading papers at the end of the day and clearly waiting for a phone call. She is not expecting Corryn Fell, the mother of one of her students, to arrive. Apparently they had had a parent/teacher conference scheduled, but Heather assumed it would be canceled because Corryn's son, Gidion, had recently killed himself. But Corryn came anyway, demanding to know why her son had been suspended. Heather attempts to postpone the meeting, wanting to hold off the discussion until the principal and a counselor can be there, but Corryn is persistent, pushing and pushing to know what had led to the suspension and, she believed, probably caused her son's suicide. They dance around the topic for a while until Heather finally reveals a story that Gidion had written. Corryn insists that Heather read the story aloud, and after much resistance, Heather finally agrees. The story details a revolt of the students in which they are systematically murdering raping, and eviscerating the teachers of the school, and enslaving some of the younger students. Heather assumes that its graphic nature will make Corryn understand the situation, but Corryn - a literature professor - exclaims that the story is beautiful, that Gidion was a writer, and that he could have and should have told her about this, so that she could have told him that he was beautiful and that the teachers who suspended him were wrong. Heather tries to explain that the story is inappropriate, and that their responsibility is to protect all the students, but Corryn, disagrees. In the end, it comes out that Heather is waiting on news from the vet about her aging cat, and Corryn notes what a lousy freakin' day it is for them all, that she does blame Heather for her son's death, and that she's sorry, and then she leaves.

The questions about self-expression that are raised by this play are interesting, but I feel like the slope that Adams goes down with her arguments gets a little bit out of whack. Corryn objects to the censoring of the students, going on about civil rights and claiming that slapping a dead child's face on an issue is a sure-fire way to eliminate any given right. (I would advise her to look at the staggering inaction in terms of gun control... but that's not really the point of the play or this post, so I won't digress too far). The story talks about the tragic death of a sensitive, artistic child, one who didn't understand the boundaries that he was bumping up against, but I can't say that the teacher was wrong for her concern over a story that featured, among others, her own brutal rape and murder. There is a grotesque beauty to what was written, and it seems likely that the communication between parent and teacher should have been much, much clearer, but I had a hard time sympathizing with Corryn beyond the obvious sympathy for a parent who has lost a young child. I cannot agree with a college professor arguing that what her eleven-year-old son wrote was appropriate and should have been appreciated by the elementary school teachers as Marquis-de-Sade-esque brilliance. I teach college, and I'd think twice about a student who wrote that kind of story for one of my classes. Of course it's admirable for a parent to support their child, but I can't seem to get on board with this particular manifestation. The writing is good, the emotions are true, the ideas are lofty, but I can't say I liked it.

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