Philadelphia Young Playwrights Festival
After watching the video tape of Anna Deavere Smith’s Fires in the Mirror, the students in the Drama and Inquiry class embarked on their own dramatic inquiry. Together they explored this question: what does it mean to be a member of the Class of 2000? Like Anna Deavere Smith, students did their research by interviewing people. Each student interviewed another member of the class of 2000. The only stipulation was that the person interviewed had to go to a different school. Each interview was tape recorded. Students then fashioned a written monologue from the transcripts. The final step was to perform the monologues, becoming the person they interviewed.
Excerpts from The Class of Nothing
It’s a Quaker Thing – Female from a private Friends School
You know, this is my thirteenth year here and you know, I’m ready to see other people and communities. It’s limiting. You know, you can’t get away from people and you know, you can’t… we’re very sheltered. And there’s no fights at school. I guess that’s a Quaker thing. But you know in a small community, you don’t get exposed to a lot of things. We’re not very diverse. You know, you really do just have this very concentrated group of white Jewish kids. And you know, I guess I’m ready to see what else is out there.
Not What it’s Cracked Up to Be – Female from a public magnet school
Let me see, um, I have to say, school is not all it’s cracked up to be. No matter where you go, I think school ends up being school, unless you have a wonderful curriculum, wonderful teachers and wonderful people to be there with which you can’t have all the time. .. the Spanish department ( here) sucks. It’s just plain awful. There was one good teacher who only taught Spanish a couple of periods because he also taught French and he like skipped off in the middle of last year, like just walked out the building one day, put his brief case in his trunk and drove off and we never saw him again.
No Structure – Male from a private school
( Laughs quite a bit. during the monologue. Sounds high) My school is really like a special school, not for like retards, but for kids with learning disabilities. Like a lot of us ADD and one kid has dyslexia, just shit like that. The teachers pretty much have no control over us, we even get a smoke break in the middle of the day cause they know if they didn’t then everyone would just inside….We also don’t have a lot of sports. Our basketball team sucks and we play all these messed up teams. Once we played these delinquent kids. It was scary as shit. They had to ride to our school in this prison bus, Then once we played these retards. It was funny. We killed them.
I live by the C – Male from a Catholic School
( Starts out slowly but becomes more agitated as the monologue progresses) I’m an average student, you know. I live by the C. I have a little trouble in school with behavior, but really though, I never do anything wrong, It’s just that some of the teachers have attitude problems. One time when I was a junior, I walked into my English class and my teacher tells me to take off my hat, so I do you know. I’m not trying to get into anything about that. But she doesn’t let it go. She has to start rapping about how I am a disturbance so I say that she made her point. Then she starts saying some shit about how she will give me demerits and how she isn’t afraid to dish them out. So I shut up. So I figure it’s over, you know and she let it go. But it turns out that after class she went to the ball coach and told him I was mouthing off and the ball coach is on my pipe enough already. so I’m walking down the hall and he comes up to me and talking about how he doesn’t need this so I say he doesn’t need what , I’m the one dealing with this shit. So I try to be honest with him and tell him what happened you know and he says that he’s considering kicking me off the ball team, and at that point I am tired of all the bullshit, so I tell him, go ahead, kick me off thinking that he would never do it. But he does, so now I’m off the team. So I got kicked off the ball team over a hat. Ain’t that some shit.
Popular - Female from a suburban public high school
( Speaks slowly and thoughtfully as if she’s measuring each word.) It has a social class system. The popular people are quote unquote popular because they wear whatever fashion dictates is the right clothes for the season. They drive the right cars and live in the right places. I personally don’t like them. It’s a weird phenomenon if you ever stop to think about it. Why are the popular people popular if no one really likes them?
School blows. – Female from a public magnet school
( voice rises at the end of each phrase – she speaks quickly and up talks) School, uh… school blows. Oh God! The roster office are, like, idiots. First off, they offered a course in mechanical drawing and then when they came back in the fall, the teacher retired so they didn’t have a teacher for the course. So they had to put us all in classes and ALL the classes were filled, so they just shoved us in any old class. So they put me in ( dramatic pause) Asian American Studies! And uh, I’m not Asian and I speak English. It really blows and it’s really biased and uh, I’m the only white girl in the class. Everyone else is Asian and they don’t speak English very well. And Oh right! The teacher asked us a question. You had to choose whether you were American, Asian American or Asian and you had to go like to a certain part of the room and get in a group. So here I am, you know, walking over, getting into MY group. I’m the only one in my group, you know like hello! White girl over there. I had no other choices. And they blame like, white people for not having text books and all sorts of crazy stuff. It’s like,white bashing class. School? School blows.
The Escapade – Male from a public neighborhood high school
( spoken slowly and deliberately with a slight Russian accent) He was under the influence and apparently him and this African American kid had some problems. They got into a dispute in the courtyard. Some harsh words were exchanged and the Russian kid, not thinking exactly what he was doing and not thinking what the consequences could have been, insulted this African American kid’s heritage. He spoke to him using the N word and the whole escapade escalated into a whole wide epidemic. The African American kids joined up with every other non white sect within the school and decided to eliminate every Russian they saw. This went on for two days. Constant fighting, constant bickering and ethnic insults flying back and forth. This wasn’t pretty. And eventually, the Russian kids from what I hear traced back who stared all of this I am not sure what his name was nor will I mention it. But they found him about a week later and beat him into a coma from what I heard. He was in the hospital from what I heard for about two weeks. When he got out of the coma, he moved away from Philadelphia. He moved away from the tri-state area. that’s the last anybody heard of him and I doubt he’s ever coming back.
The Class of Nothing – female from a public neighborhood high school
Did you ever notice how all of the other classes have real numbers? Like last year was ninety nine. Or next year is “oh one.” Or the year after that “oh two.” But what are we? For all the talk about the class of two thousand, look at our numbers. Two zeros. Oh Oh. Double zero. We’re the class of nothing.