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Q:  I have a girl doing Schol and the piece is from Top Girls and uses the F word.  It actually uses it several times and she has cut it down to just the once because she feels it needs the impact.  Is this advisable or would it be seen as inappropriate?

A:  I find it really sad that this is still an issue around the world… I was very lucky that the Head of School (an Oblate father) I had in my first posting had a passion for theatre and a respect for playwrights and their work… I never had to justify such things and have never had to in any school I’ve ever been in…  you know your community better than us – the fact you feel the need to ask suggests there is some concern from your perspective…  rather than change an authors work – do something different…

I’ve had kids do bits from Oleanna, The Removalists and never has anyone batted an eyelid at the use of any word…

Lenny Bruce had a great monologue years ago called “Niggers” – in which he proposed that the word’s suppression gave it its power… there are many great academic discussions to which you could refer should any issues arise; a couple of recommended references are:

Matthew Hunt offers a great academic discussion and social history of one particular word in his paper, Cunt: History of the C-word http://www.matthewhunt.com/cunt/index.html

The word you mention is treated in this legal article from the Social Science Research Network..

Fairman, Christopher M., “Fuck” (March 2006). Ohio State Public Law Working Paper No. 59 Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=896790

And turns up quite frequently in many academic articles relating to theatre…

Wikipedia offers some great online references to both of these words and others that become contentious… the great trick of those who challenge their use is in their cultural vilification of the words – you cannot even discuss the words because you cannot use the words… don’t fall for this manipulative strategy – these words have long and prestigious history in the English language and in our culture… Caryl Churchill understood this when she used the word in her play.

Caryl Churchill took the time to choose tthat particular word in that particular context and I doubt we have the ethical or moral right to undermine and diminish her work by making unwarranted and unauthorised edits.  Let’s not forget that Caryl Churchill is a political playwright and her decision to use words in this way is directly challenging patriachal power over so many aspects of culture,.. Top Girls especially is about empowerment of women.. your student is right in arguing that the word is both necessary and deliberately transgressive… it is a direct challenge to patriarchal demands on the language of and about women…

I say bite the bullet and argue your case IF there is any fall out…

If Drama is to have a valid place in the curriculum we need to be the ones who stand up and fight… if we cannot be scholarly about such things then what are we telling our students??

The really ironic thing is that this post is likely to be rejected by so many email/network filters simply because someone has decided the two academic references I’ve selected are inappropriate for their staff to read…

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