Friday, May 13, 2011

Absurdist art imitates life

“Proficient,” a play written by a local playwright, Jessica Foster, was recently performed by the University of Iowa Theater Arts department. Foster explained the origin of the play:

Last spring, I found out that three of my favorite teachers were retiring. When I wrote them to express my gratitude and congratulations one responded telling me that the decision was not of her own volition, but strongly encouraged by the administration. Knowing what a naturally talented teacher she was and also having been greatly influenced by her, I felt the effects of No Child Left Behind on a more personal level and I knew it was about time I spoke for my family and friends who sacrifice so much in what seems to be a broken system.

Foster classifies the play as “absurd theater.” Our local alternative paper summarized the plot:

Proficient concerns three main characters: Ms. Delaney, a teacher; Craig, an educational salesman; and Rodney, who works with Craig. There’s also a chorus of children -- the number can be determined by the director. The salesmen want Ms. Delaney to buy their product, which promises significant financial rewards for the school. Ms. Delaney accepts, only to learn that the program actually programs students, making them into test-taking robots.

“I had a [mother] of one of the children in our play ask the child if school is more like the beginning or end of the play,” Foster said. “And she was surprised when the child told her, ‘The end.’”

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