puppet academia — the policy slaughter scene

To honour UBC Lawyers loving to triple down on their inability to ever consider they might possibly be wrong about something as serious as which UBC policies the UBC actually has to care about, I’m bringing back my favourite of the puppet academia series.

PROGOAT waits in their PJs and slippers STAGE LEFT. Behind them, a door is marked “SC Kennel”. The policies are singing as close to the Smurf theme song as we’re legally allowed to from behind its closed doors. There are oversized flowers and rainbows decorating it. If you look, they all have a stamp indicating the date they’ve been approved to be displayed. A giant sign, also stamped, warns to “BE EXTRA NICE IN THE CONDUCT POLICY KENNEL” The clock over their head says it’s late o’clock. Even with the time, the PROGOAT looks very uncomfortable to be standing where they are.

On the other side of the wall separating the two stages, CREW are dancing around STAGE RIGHT with puppet policy hand puppets in bird cages. Each “cage” has three adorable policy hand puppets (one on a fake hand) to make 18 policies. In the center of the room, the Respectful Environment Statement is clearly “conducting” the song.

Lawyer rushes in, looking like they’ve had a three-day bender. Pieces of yellow legal paper and dot matrix tractor feeder are stuck to their rumpled suit. One foot has a shoe but a shredded lower pant leg and no sock. The other foot is bare.

PROGOAT: Did we have to meet here?

LAWYER says nothing. They hand over oversized plastic gloves and ear plugs and puts theirs on. PROGOAT holds theirs awkwardly.

PROGOAT: (raises voice) What are these for?

LAWYER: (loudly) I solved our little policy problem!

LAWYER pushes the door open. The music grows louder, but this isn’t the reason for the ear plugs. PROGOAT is struck for a second by how adorable all the policies are while they’re singing and dancing.

Enough light is reflected as the actors dance in circles to semi-reveal a large cage with velvet ropes keeping it roped off from the dancing. It’s draped in black and is meant to almost disappear into the darkness. The PROGOAT hasn’t seen it yet. The LAWYER isn’t looking at it. There is very little chance anyone has filled out the variance required to store whatever it is in the SC Kennel, forget filing it and then waiting for the non-emergency approval to come through and get signed off on.

Or at least, it is not stamped as all the other cages are.

Lawyer throws open the trap door. The stage glows red as lightning flashes from what is reflected from below. Blacklight messages over the sterile background flash warnings to abandon hope and all policies float down here.

As the lid rises, distant screams mix with the policies’ song for a moment. A curl of deep laughter comes from the pit, but much closer than the other sinister sounds that come from the bottom of it. If we can swing it, the smell of struck matches is pumped in.

LAWYER: Scholarly Integrity Policy.

PROGOAT: What?

LAWYER: (sighing at having to spell it out) Open SC 4-6, Grab the Scholarly Integrity Policy, strip its hand away, and throw it into the “these policies can’t matter if we want to just decide we’re right” pit.

The PROGOAT is horrified. They didn’t sign up for any of this. The LAWYER grabs the back of their pyjama shirt and drags them over the pit, facing it.

LAWYER: DO YOU WANT TO ADMIT THE STUDENT WAS JUST EXERCISING THEIR ACADEMIC FREEDOM?

Even the sounds from hell silence at the crack of thunder that follows the LAWYER’s words. The policies stop singing. The PROGOAT stares down at the pit as the ABYSS PUPPET pulls itself up from the pit and stares back. Two marionettes dressed as knights duel it out in the background. They are marked Morals vs. Ambition. Ambition is winning.

The silence grows.

Eventually, the ABYSS nods and retreats below, taking with it the red glow and the sounds. It is just a trap door.

PROGOAT: …I’ll do it.

The Lawyer lets them go and takes the time to straighten the PJs.

LAWYER: (voice firm) Scholarly Integrity Policy.

PROGOAT: But we need that to do the science stuff!

LAWYER: (unaffected) And the Director should have been honest when they explained what the student’s concern was. “I couldn’t explain our pedagogical approach” is a different conversation than “the student just didn’t agree with my harmful lack of pedagogy I’m calling a pedagogy.” LAWYER (or at least someone) pauses for dramatic effect. Scholarly Integrity Policy.

The PROGOAT’s shoulders slump as they open the first cage, reach in and pull out the first violated policy. Naturally, it tries to fight back. But just being a concept, it has no actual teeth or claws and depends on the person protecting it for its right to exist.

As it is slowly, screamingly, stripped from the hand, it reveals the red jello it had been stuffed full of. The naked, “bloody” hand flays around in the cage, puppetless as the PROGOAT drags the puppet itself to the edge of the pit and throws it in. The horrified silence of the policies around them break as the last of its poor screams echoes through the audience.

The PROGOAT looks at their hands. Some of the jelly has stained their skin.

Lights dim.

Narrator: Two hours later —

Lights up as the sound of a “final scream” in its last echo shakes the theatre. Its silence settles. PROGOAT stands there, covered in policy gore. Six bloody hands hang limply as the policies that survive cling to the other survivors and whimper.

PROGOAT: Is that it?

LAWYER: In the SC kennel.

PROGOAT: but this is all conduct bullshit. What else has to die so I can get my way?

LAWYER: Well…

SPOTLIGHT ON: the last cage. CREW whips off the covering and it’s PUPPET ACADEMIC FREEDOM. Blue ribbons cover its cage. PROGOAT rushes to it to “pet” it. It’s now their hand puppet.

PROGOAT: NOT GEORGY! Anything but Georgy!

GEORGY cooes and giggles in their protector’s hands. The rest of the surviving SC policies can only whimper and console each other in their cages with the bloody hands still hanging loosely. They’d once been the following policies:

  • Conflict of Interest Policy
  • Scholarly Integrity Policy
  • Discrimination Policy
  • Investigations Policy
  • Retaliation Policy 
  • and the Respectful Environment Statement 

The LAWYER clears their throat, threateningly.

Fade to black.

Spotlight on: STAGE LEFT. Puppet Progoat wakes in bed, screaming and drenched in sweat from the nightmare. When they pull out their human-looking hand from under the covers, it is covered in ultra-realistic gore. This time, they don’t stop screaming even as the darkness fades in and the audience goes on an intermission break.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s