Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Equus: A Teacher's Perspective on the Impact of the Play

Last July 25, 2010, my new theater-play buddy, Teacher Ada, and I watched the play Equus at Greenbelt 1. We caught the 3pm play featuring Red Concepcion as Alan Strang.
To give you a brief background on what the play is let me quote the synopsis taken from the programme:

Pyschiatrist Martin Dysart is brought the most challenging case of his career. Alan Strang, seems like a normal seventeen year old. His life appears routine and his family loving. However Alan's passion for horses and an encounter with stable hand Jill has led him to behave in the most devastating way. Dysart must discover why this severely troubled teenager, has gouged out the eyes of six horses with a hoof pick. Dysart slowly realizes hat Alan has evolved his own bizarre religion, in which horses are his gods - and has enacted a strange Passion play.

Only Dysart seems able to grasp the answer to this psychological puzzle. He understands that to cure the boy, he must take from him the richest and most profound experience of his life. The boy's fierce passion forces Dysart to recognize the barrenness and aridity of his own existence.

Honestly, I went to the play with the most simple or in Filipino we call it "babaw" of reasons. To see what was the play that made Harry Potter boy "Daniel Radcliffe" controversial as a theater actor. Is is true that there will be nudity? Is this really about a guy who gets turned on by a horse? OMG!

But alas, I left the theater a changed teacher? (While still gawking at my favorite horseman, yummy guys) Ooops wait, I said changed right? No seriously back to the topic at hand, the last thing I remembered Dr. Dysart say in the play was "Passion, you see, can be destroyed by a doctor.It cannot be created."

As a Science teacher, it rang a familiar bell. Sounds like the first law of Thermodynamics.

As a teacher it pinched my heart with the mention of the word "Passion".

A shoutout in my Facebook inspired me to write this blog. It was just too long to say in my shoutout. I had to post it in two parts.

The shout out goes like this:
Sabi ni Dr. Dysart, "Passion can be terminated (destroyed) by doctors... but not created"- Equus July 25, 2010. Ang play na ito ay muling naganap pagkatapos ng 37 na taon since una syang pinalabas dito sa Pinas. Feeling ko connected sya sa video na Faculty [HD] at sabi ng theater play-buddy ko connected rin daw sya sa Inception (di ko pa napanood).

So ano ba talaga ang purpose ng isang titser or sino pa mang nagtratrabaho kasama ng mga bata? Magturo ba na maging normal sila para mapabilang at tanggapin ng society or tulungan silang hanapin ang passion nila? Ano nga ba itong si passion, paano mo malalaman kung meron ka ba tlaga nito? Hay naku, masyado ng mahabang shoutout baka i-blog ko na lang...haaaay! Mag-isip. Mag-isip titser. Paano ka nga ba ginawa?

So as a teacher what was my take for this play?

The quote I provided about doctors killing passion should not be taken literally. Dr. Dysart in this play is a psychiatrist. I don't want anybody thinking that I am dissuading parents from bringing their child to a pediatrician or any health doctor because they might kill their child's passion. That is so out of context.

Anyway, I think it's better to read the continuation of what Dysart said in his ending speech as he holds Alan's body close to him.

You won't gallop anymore, Alan.
Horses will be quite safe.
You'll save your money every week...
and change that scooter for a car...
and spend glorious weekends...
grooming that.
You'll pop round to the betting shop
and put the odd pence on the nags...
quite forgetting they ever meant
anything more to you than...
bearers of little profits and little losses.
You will, however, be without pain...
almost completely without...

So what does Dysart want to do for Alan? In simple words, he aims to bring Alan back to normal. But what is normal?

The Normal is the good smile
in a child's eyes.
It's also the dead stare in a million adults.
Both sustains and kills...
like a god.
It is the ordinary made beautiful.
It is also the average...
made lethal.
The Normal is the indispensable...
murderous God of health.
And I am his priest.

Who is the priest? The people who work with children to prepare them for the adult world. How do these priests do it?

My tools are very delicate.
My compassion is honest.
I've honestly assisted children in this room.
I've talked away terrors,
relieved many agonies.
But beyond question...
I have cut from them
portions of individuality...
repugnant to this God, Normal,
in all its aspects.
And at what length.
Sacrifices to Zeus took,
at the most, seconds each.
Sacrifices to the Normal...
can take as much as...
sixty months.
Can you hear me?
Can you speak normally?
Say "yes" if you can.
I can.
Now raise your head.
Open your eyes.

So now let me ask you, as a teacher who inevitably has a high probability to influence and mold each child that enters your classroom as they go up each level, each grade until adulthood, were you able to reach your goal to help these kids become normal adults? or in that same process did you kill their passion?

In the small things you say:
...pay attention
...stop singing
...stop laughing
...slow down
...stand up properly
...read this
...listen to this
...follow me
...walk this way
...Say "yes" if you can.
...Raise your head
...Open your eyes

Or in the things that you did not say...

If passion and dreams were like fairies in Neverland, how many fairies would have been dead by now every time you curb out a child's imagination and passion so that they will look and sound normal and acceptable to society.

Am I promoting disorder or chaos in the educational system? Heck no! As a Science teacher I am fully aware of a phenomenon called entropy. Wikipedia defines it as "a thermodynamic property which serves as a measure of how close a system is to equilibrium — that is, to perfect internal disorder." I think as a teacher we should always check our level of entropy, our internal disorder, as a measure if we are still honest to the vocation we pledged to take and the life we are bound to live.

I wish more teachers and parents will have a chance to watch plays like this. I wish I could have written this review earlier? or watched the play earlier so I could have promoted it to my fellow teachers and parents? But I watched the second to the last scheduled play last July 25. Still, I guess if someone wills it, there is always a way.

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