I remember being sixteen and receiving my report card for theatre class and noticing that my average was a little lower than I had expected. Scanning my grades for each assignment, I realized with abject horror that I – a straight-A student – had received a 60% for my acting work in the ‘director’s scene.’ You see, at my high school, every grade 11 theatre student had to act in a scene directed (and marked) by a grade 12 theatre student, presumably trying to give these students agency in their work.
Frustrated and a little hurt, I approached my teacher who agreed to meet with me at lunch hour to discuss my grades. We met in the drama office, and she shared with me the notes written by the student director regarding my work. She listed off a handful of negative things he had said about my acting (perhaps an accurate assessment; I never claimed to be the world’s greatest actress), including, and this is the clincher, that throughout rehearsal I kept ‘showing off my breasts’. Direct quote.
This shattered me. Because although I immediately and rightly denied the accusation, I began to wonder from where it had come. I thought back to rehearsals: what was I wearing, how was I behaving, what had I said to him. Maybe I had been wearing clothes that could have been considered revealing – but then, most of the time, we were wearing the costumes that he had given us. And I thought about how some of the blocking required demonstrative gestures, leaning forward facing the audience, so maybe that was it. And I remembered a few times after rehearsal when the other actor had left, that he and I chatted for a while, perhaps even flirted, though nothing happened.
‘Tell you what,’ said the teacher. ‘I’ll increase your grade to a 75%, and then we can forget about this, alright?’
I agreed. And suddenly the notes disappeared and it was as if it had never happened. Although, I’m pretty sure that from that point on, the grade 12 directors were no longer allowed to assign grades to their actors.
This happened almost ten years ago, and for some reason I remembered it this morning and I haven’t been able to put it out of my head. Sometimes people ask me why I wear jackets and waistcoats: ‘You have such a nice body. Why cover it up?’ Sometimes people ask me if I’ve been raped: ‘Define rape’ is my usual answer.
I’m angry. And I’m not even particularly angry at the pathetic adolescent boy who had some small effect on my grades: he’s a fucking moron, and that’s his problem, and I never have to deal with him again. I am angry at that teacher who let it happen and was too cowardly to stand up for me when she could have. And I’m angry at myself for not making a bigger fuss at the time. Because TEN YEARS LATER thinking about this incident completely ruined my morning. And I deserve better.