by Erica Berman
Author of The Power
Miss Abbott told us since we were in sixth grade and very grown up, there were certain subjects we would cover during the school year. "Certain very private subjects just for girls." That was all she said but I got the idea. Why do they wait until sixth grade when you already know everything!
- Judy Blume, "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret."
Between 1990 and 2000:
• 71% of books challenged were to materials found in schools or school libraries
• 60% of challenges were brought by parents.
• The vast majority of those books were banned due to "sexually explicit" material.
- Schools and Censorship: Banned Books, People for the American Way
When we talk about banning books, we are mostly talking about parents who don't want their kids to read books about their changing bodies and new desires. And there is no author whose voice on these subjects is as pervasive or as sharp as that of Judy Blume. Generations of young girls have read Blume's books under their covers by flashlight (or perhaps on a Kindle now?) and giggled with their girlfriends about words like period, breasts, and (gasp!) sex. No wonder Judy Blume is easily one of the most frequently challenged authors of the 21st century.
In our culture, talking to our children about their bodies is uncomfortable. Is there a word that evokes as much discomfort or as many awkward memories as the word puberty? And yet it's a human condition that we all must endure. Parents can't stop these changes from occurring (although they may try) but they can attempt to control information that is probably already disseminating.
Being an 11 year old girl is not easy – as Margaret of Blume's eponymous novel would agree! I wish that more adults would use their imagination to travel back in time to that moment in their lives and consider what kind of support or information they wished they'd had. If more parents could use empathy instead of fear, I think less books would be challenged or banned and more Judy Blume books would be in the hands of those who need them most.
by Richard Ganoung
Director, Kurt Vonnegut Took a Grape From My Hand
For the past few years it has been my pleasure to try on a different "hat" as a member of FTC, and now that of a director in our very popular monologue festivals. Our Artistic Director Jen Gray once gave me a book about advice form successful theatrical directors of the 20th Century. Inside the cover she inscribed: "For Richard, because he can do anything". When one has the support of fellow artisans there is precious little we cannot achieve. Upon reading the current monologue I'm directing for the banned books festival by the incredible Lori Matthews, I immediately heard the voice of an equally incredible actor, Peggy Rosin, in my head. For the past several months the three of us have been working in tandem to sculpt a moving and entertaining mosaic to fit within what we know will be a spectacularly brilliant evening of free and unchained voices.
by Jake Penner
Actor, Laffs with Two Fs
I held my tongue in college. One day, I remember listening mute as half a dozen honors seminar students lambasted our space program while at the same time texting each other on technology only made possible by the advancements of NASA scientists. I've always regretted not saying something that day.
And that's the central difference between me and Sergio, the Literature graduate student whose undergrads extoll writers like Dav Pilkey and Stephanie Meyer: Sergio says something. It's been a great experience exploring a character who had the guts to speak his mind on a controversial subject, even though he knew it would likely land him in hot water with the dean who holds the key to his future. Kimberly Yarnall has captured a defining moment in this young academic's life, when he must decide what's more important, his career or his ideals. I've been honored to have a hand in that.
by Jessica Witham
Actor, Bad Librarian
Monologues are scary. Only slightly more scary than writing a blog. As an actor performing a monologue, you are attempting to create an entire world in your imagination, and trying to get a room full of strangers to see this world too. You also have to say all of these words-- in order-- and there is no one onstage to help you if you get lost. This process, from rehearsal to performance, can be thrilling at its best; horrifying at its worst. It is much safer with a group onstage, you have partners in making magic. If you are lucky, you have a strong team behind you nudging you onstage with confidence.
I am very lucky to have the director/writer team of Dave Pausch and Sam White behind the construction of this "Bad Librarian". For me, working with these guys is like walking into a familiar bar, one where everyone knows your name. The working environment they create is relaxed and open, but comprehensive and detailed. I have had the privilege of working with these two several times on different projects, both separately and together. They both create an environment of collaborative creativity, ideas are welcome and often incorporated. I feel so grateful to have been able to take part in the development of this monologue. It is a rare experience for an actor to have a say in the development of the character as the script is being written. This generosity opened up a world of possibilities during the rehearsal process.
Sam writes with strong, illustrative words. He is thoughtful in his choices and his flexibility is tremendous. Saying Sam's words in this piece, for this character, has been a joyous ride. And, I can't imagine anyone better suited to direct this piece than Dave; he has this natural sense of comedic timing that many people spend years honing. Dave's innate comedy lent well in the creation of this woman, this kooky librarian who is just so in love with books, this bibliophile who leads with her heart and is passionate and funny yet very authentic. Climbing into her shoes has been such...fun. There isn't any other word to describe how it feels to say her lines and go through the gamut of feelings as she imparts her story. She is just fun. I can only hope that the audience has as much fun watching as we have had creating.