Content warnings to the max: Princeton drama jumps the shark

November 21, 2022 • 9:15 am

Adamandi, a musical, was first performed at Princeton University on November 11, and continued until 8 days later. A description from the website:

A new horror musical in the genre of dark academia with book and lyrics by Mel Hornyak and Elliot Valentine Lee and music by Lee. The story focuses on three queer students of color at an elite college going to horrific lengths to prove their worth for a coveted graduation honor. The show features a score with baroque pop and dark cabaret influences. Performance on 11/18 features open captions. No tickets required.

And a photo by Larry Levanti:

But the humorous (and telling) part of this musical is the mammoth list of content warnings that accompanies it. You can see them all at the link below (click on screenshot), and I’ll reproduce most of them


Detailed Content Warnings

These content warnings are provided so that you can still consume the show if you want to avoid one or more of the content warnings. ‘Cues’ are visual changes onstage that you can use as a signal that a certain content warning will come up imminently. A ‘discussion’ is characters talking about the topic, while a ‘depiction’ involves an abstract staging of a character experiencing the topic (note that Adamandi does not feature any practical blood effects or gore). However, many of the content warnings are incorporated throughout the show, so please consider your overall comfort with murder, student death, Catholic guilt, and discussions of self-harm when deciding whether to see Adamandi.

Loud Noises

Loud noises (books dropped from a height/shouting) occur in scene transitions after Where Can I Run (Act I, cue: Vincent leaves the stage), A Little More In Love (Act I, cue: Quincy leaves the stage), and Quincy and Vincent’s discussion of Vincent’s project (Act I, cue: Quincy proposes they team up).

Self-harm through Exercise

Self-harm through exercise is discussed in Sound Body, Sound Mind (Act I, cue: Ambrose and his friends surround Vincent), and Me, Myself and I (Act I, cue: Quincy sings ‘Me, Myself, and I’ the first time), and depicted abstractly in the scene transitions after Where Can I Run (Act I, cue: Vincent leaves the stage), A Little More In Love (Act I, cue: Quincy leaves the stage), and Quincy and Vincent’s discussion of Vincent’s project (Act I, cue: Quincy proposes they team up).

Self-harm through Burning

Self-harm through burning is discussed during the scene where Portia and Quincy are on the stage left balcony (Act II), the scene after Quincy and Vincent talk to the Administration (Act II), and On The Other Side of Failure (Act II, cue: Quincy enters holding a broom). It is depicted abstractly during Litany of the Martyrs (Act II, cue: Saint Lawrence says “One life, one death, one hell’), and I Hate and I Love (Act II, cue: Quincy lights candles on the balcony).

Internalized Homophobia

Internalized homophobia is discussed in the scene where Ambrose and Vincent talk in the gym (Act I, cue: Ambrose leaves the Marmorei in the gym), throughout I Love You, I Swear, and depicted in the scene before I Love You, I Swear (Act I, cue: Beatrix and Portia finish their interview.)

Body/Corpse Mutilation

Body/corpse mutilation is discussed in Oh, Ms. Reporter (Act II, cue: Vincent sits down in a chair at the lip of the stage) and implicitly depicted in the final scene of Act II (cue: the pyre is wheeled in)


Murder is discussed in the scene between Beatrix and Vincent in the newsroom (Act I, cue: Beatrix unlocks the file cabinet) as well as throughout Act II, and depicted abstractly at the end of Act I (cue: The ensemble sings ‘Me, Myself, and I’), and the end of Act II (cue: Quincy sings ‘I Hate and I Love’ for the second time)


Suicide is briefly discussed in Word to the Wise (Act I, cue: Quincy and Vincent are pushed towards the lip of the stage), discussed in Perfect at School (Act I, cue: Quincy stands from the interview table), Read All About It (cue: start of Act II), the scene after Student Body (Act II, cue: Vincent enters Quincy’s room with Ambrose), Where Can I Run (Reprise) (Act II, cue: Quincy holds out their hands to Vincent), and the scene that takes place on the Pyre (Act II, cue: the pyre is wheeled in).

Gender Dysphoria and Internalized Transphobia

Gender dysphoria and internalized transphobia is discussed in the scene after Sound Body, Sound Mind (Act I, cue: Ambrose leaves the Marmorei in the gym), throughout I Love You, I Swear (Act I, cue: Ambrose speaks to his girlfriend offstage), and Me, Myself, and I (Act I, cue: Quincy sings ‘Me, Myself, and I’ the first time).

I had to include this one:

. . . . Catholic Guilt

Catholic guilt is discussed in the scene after A Little More In Love (Act I), Me, Myself, and I (Act I, cue: Vincent leaves the newsroom), and throughout Act II.

What’s the issue with “Catholic guilt”?

There’s also a “note from the writers” at the bottom about heeding the warnings above, and how to leave the theater if you can’t take it any more.

Note that, as far as I can tell, not one of these items is actually depicted in the play; they’re all simply discussed.  If mere discussion of something like “murder” or “internalized homophobia” is enough to send you running from the play, or not going at all, then you shouldn’t be reading the news or browsing online. Or even getting out of bed. And life doesn’t give you trigger warnings when there are “loud noises”.

The data seem to show, at any rate, that if you have a phobia about something like these issues, the best way to overcome it not to avoid it forever but is to expose yourself to it (preferably with advice from a therapist). For you never know when something like murder or suicide will crop up in conversation or on the news. But this obtains for things you can actually see or experience, like videos of murder or mutilation—not simply discussion of such issues. The evening news imparts you a warning like this when something gruesome is shown: “Note: some of the following video might be disturbing,” which seems appropriate. But it doesn’t do that when simply reporting on murder or violence.

Are any of these trigger warnings necessary? I’d say that if these things were actually shown, a short description on the website might be appropriate; something like this: “Note, this play includes discussion of elements like murder, suicide, gender dysphoria, and Catholic guilt.” But a long list like the one above, describing exactly where the discussions are, vividly underlines the fragility of the students and the helicopter-playwright nature of artistry these days.

Readers might amuse themselves by imagining the trigger warnings that accompany plays like “Hamlet”, or books like Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, or Crime and Punishment. And what in the world do you do with paintings? After all, they’re right there before you, and if they have a trigger warning next to them, well, it’s already too late.

Here’s a video: TRIGGER WARNING: CATHOLIC GUILT TO THE MAX. (I love this song: one of Billy Joel’s best. It was issued in 1977.)

h/t: cesar

Musical “Aida” canceled because racial balance of cast not achievable

October 8, 2016 • 9:15 am
No, not the opera Aida, but a musical by Tim Rice and Elton John based on Verdi’s masterpiece. The reporting on this incident at the University of Bristol, by the Torygraph, is a bit confusing, but apparently the musical was cancelled over a student protest about “cultural appropriation”.  It was, though, justa threatened appropriation: the possibility that, due to a shortage of students of color, white students would have to play the role of blacks and Nubians. And that shortage, so the Torygraph says, caused the play’s cancellation:

It is understood that there were protests amid fears that white students would be cast as leads and expected to portray Ancient Egyptians and slaves.

The musical, by Tim Rice and Elton John, is based on Verdi’s opera of the same name. It centres around an Ethiopian princess, Aida, who is held prisoner in Egypt, where she serves as a slave but falls in love with an Egyptian general.

One student commented: “White washing still exists, it’s been done enough in Hollywood, look at Liz Taylor in Cleopatra.”

Here’s the “explanation” by the theater group:

. . .  In its statement, the theatre said: “It is with great sadness that we are announcing the cancellation of Aida in this year’s MTB show calendar.

“This show that was voted in by our members has since caused controversy in terms of racial diversity.

“It is a great shame that we have had to cancel this show as, of course, we would not want to cause offence in any way, and that was certainly never our intention. Our intention was to tell this story, one which surely is better heard than not performed at all.”

Now clearly theaters should strive for racial diversity within the pool of qualified actors, and the time has long gone when actors must play “race-appropriate” characters. After all, look at the success of “Hamilton” on broadway, with many of America’s founding fathers played by people of color. We go to plays, after all, to suspend disbelief. But it’s unconscionable to simply cancel a play because, due to lack of actors, you can’t find enough people of color to play Nubians and slaves.

Once again, we see people deprived of a good artistic experience because of the college Offense Culture. Bristol University and its theater department should be ashamed of themselves.

“We would not want to cause offence in any way”: the touchstone of censorship in our age.

A great profile of Al Pacino

September 15, 2014 • 10:34 am

I’m not big on articles about Hollywood stars, but this is an exception. John Lahr, the head drama critic for The New Yorker (and son of Bert Lahr, the Cowardly Lion), has written a terrific profile of actor Al Pacino, and I’m pleased to say that it’s online for free.

Pacino hasn’t done much lately, for, as Lahr notes, he was swindled out of millions of dollars by his business manager (now in jail), and has had to take some pretty crummy roles, including a tour in which he simply talks to audiences, to recoup his dosh. But Lord, the man has some great roles behind him, including those in The Godfather series (especially #2), Scarface, SerpicoDog Day Afternoon, and a number of plays on Broadway that I’ve never seen.

What really struck me about Pacino, now 74 years old, is his absolute immersion in his craft and his character—to the extent that he lives his character well after the camera has stopped rolling, and and seems to have very little life beyond acting. He’s had children and girlfriends, but never a permanent relationship. Lahr discusses Pacino’s longest-term relationship, with actor Diane Keaton:

The conversation turned to Diane Keaton’s bittersweet second memoir, “Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty,” which had been published the week before and in which she discussed “the lure of Al.” “His face, his nose, and what about those eyes?” Keaton wrote. “I kept trying to figure out what I could do to make them mine. They never were. . . . For the next twenty years I kept losing a man I never had.” Sola expounded on the astuteness of Keaton’s observation. “Al has this ephemeral, childlike quality about him,” she told me. “His friend Charlie used to say he’s like smoke. He’s there, but he’s not there. That’s maybe what drove the women crazy. You want to catch him, but you can’t because Al is—”

It sounds like an incomplete life, but, oddly, I found myself envying Pacino. He is in “the flow” nearly all the time, and that makes him avoid having what most people consider a normal life. He doesn’t seem to miss it, either. At any rate, I’d recommend reading Lahr’s “Al Pacino’s Driving Force.

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