Thursday, September 08, 2005
A Horrifying Tale of the Vile and Hideous Professor Mills Making Entirely Inappropriate Remarks
(Another letter of complaint from a student regarding Perry Mills.)
To whom [it] may concern,
Fall of 2003 I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had to leave Western for immediate treatment including surgery and chemotherapy. I returned to Western spring of 2004 excited and ready to work. Although my [health] was not at its prime and I still had not grown back any hair, it was something I wanted to do. As you can imagine I was very sensitive to the fact that I was bald and faced my insecurities everyday. During the fall quarter when I left school and the spring quarter when I cam back I was enrolled in Mr. Mill's dramatic writing coure, [a] requirement for my major. Mr. Mills was fully aware of my sickness and how I felt about it. One day in class I was preparing to put up a piece for [work-shopping] in front of the class. It was the first time that I had put something up so I was nervous. When Mr. Mills asked if anyone had something for class that day I put my hand up tentatively. Then when called upon I explained that I wasn't sure if I wanted to put it up...that I was nervous. And Mr. Mills responded "Caitlin, if you can't even put up your piece for class then you should have just died of cancer." As my eyes welled up with tears and the class stared on I cast my work and put it up for the class. Although he succeeded in getting me to put up my work (which was not a requirement of the course) it was entirely inappropriate.
Professor Mills' account:
At the beginning of one class I asked, "Who has something to put up?" meaning, "Who has a piece they are ready to cast and perform?" [Caitlin] raised her hand. I called on her and told her to [go] ahead, cast it and perform it. She began to hand out scripts to other students, but then after a minute or two she said she was not sure she wanted to go ahead and do it.
In her complaint letter [Caitlin] wrote that I told her "Caitlin, if you can't even put your piece up for class then you should have just died of cancer." While that does not sound exactly right, I did say something to that effect. I did say something like, "If you don't put the play up, it's the same as if you had died." The point I was making was that while we live, we can create. When we are dead, we can no longer create. And if we stop creating while we are alive, it's the same as if we had never lived.
My remark had its desired effect. I succeeded in goading her into getting up the courage to cast and perform her piece. She went ahead and the piece was performed and critiqued. She acknowledges in her complaint letter that I succeeded in getting her to do her piece for the class.
I can see why other people might find my remark to [Caitlin] to be offensive or cruel. I disagree. I believe that [if] I had not said this, I would have been failing her as a teacher. The goals of any discipline, including theater arts, must be to produce an observable change of behavior in the person studying that discipline. A performance piece must be performed, even if it causes pain to do so. Artistic strength comes only through action. My statement to [Caitlin] was designed to induce that action, and it did so.
Posted by Nick at 9:29 PM