Love fish? You live in the right place. I’m a huge fan. Ipswich is a great place to enjoy fish. Think of all the wonderful fish you’ve enjoyed in Ipswich. Amazing freshness, quality, variety.
Of course, we may claim to love fish, but the fish may have an alternative perspective. As you’re gutting the fish, the fish is not feeling your love.
Love high school theatre? You live in the right place. I’m a huge fan. Ipswich is a great place to enjoy high school theatre. Think of all the wonderful high school theatre you’ve enjoyed in Ipswich. Amazing freshness, quality, variety.
Of course, we may claim to love high school theatre, but the high school theatre students may have an alternative perspective. As you’re gutting the theatre department, the theatre department is not feeling your love.
Ask Google “how to gut a fish,” and you get 162 million answers. But not even one begins with the actual first step, which is to take the fish out of its appropriate, healthy environment, the place where it thrives: the water. A “fish out of water” may still be breathing when you gut it, but it won’t be for long.
Ask Google “how to gut a high school theatre department,” and you get exactly zero answers. At least till this essay goes online.
Then, at least, the world will know how Ipswich does it.
The actual first step is to take high school theatre out of its appropriate, healthy environment, the place where it thrives: the classroom. A high school theatre program taken out of the classroom may still be breathing when you gut it, but it won’t be for long.
It’s actually a type of discrimination, what humans do to fish. We’ve chosen to single them out for our peculiar expression of “love.” And it turns out bad for the fish.
It’s actually a type of discrimination, what Ipswich does to theatre students. While orchestra, band, and chorus students earn credit for after-school participation in their programs, and they’re free to take the classes in their specialty during “R-block,” theatre students are barred from these options. Orchestra, band, and chorus programs have robust enrollments because it’s easy for a student to include those classes when they map out their schedules. Theatre classes have consistently been taken by 15 to 20 students, but as many as 50 others want to and can’t because of scheduling conflicts.
Human beings’ particular discrimination regarding fish has been going on for thousands of years. Ipswich High School’s discrimination regarding theatre students has been going on for quite a number of years. My own youngest child came up through the Ipswich theatre department, graduating in the pandemic class of 2020. She’ll soon graduate with a full four-year BFA in Acting. The point being: she is among those Ipswich theatre students most seriously dedicated to their craft. And yet, in her four years at Ipswich High School, she enrolled in only a meager two semestersof theatre classes. Why? Because of scheduling conflicts due to the anti-theatre R-block discrimination policy.
“How to gut a high school theatre department” starts with making it hard for students to take the classes. Then you can claim that kids aren’t taking the classes you offer, so these under-enrolled classes need to be eliminated. (It’s like a fisherman cackling, “Heck, these fish didn’t work very hard to stay alive!”) So it won’t be enough to resurrect theatre classes from the dead. The school’s historic anti-theatre scheduling bias must be eliminated at the same time.
When the news broke about theatre classes being canceled, the town-wide firestorm prompted the School Committee to respond with a public statement. They insisted that gutting theatre classes does not “signal a lack of support for the arts.”
Nor does gutting the fish signal a lack of support for the fish.
Yes, we love theatre. Pan-fried is best, I think.
Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, where he survives on a steady diet of seafood and cynicism. Check him out at DougBrendel.com.