Body Language – An Excerpt from The Snow Clown

From Jeff Raz’s new book The Snow Clown

The Snow ClownChapter 30 “A Cross is Burning”

ON THE FIRST DAY of rehearsal, 22 of us sit on folding chairs, just barely fitting in the long, thin classroom we’ve been assigned. Some folks make it clear with their body language and monosyllabic responses that they would rather be anywhere else. I want to get right to the tough stuff: institutional racism, hate symbols, personal bias. They want to go home.

That first day we mainly tell stories to get to know each other. On Day 2, I introduce the theme and we start to explore the world of symbols, including hate symbols. The room gets tense; feelings get hurt. I invent the “offensive tick” — if someone says something offensive, instead of arguing or interrupting, anyone can make a tick mark in the air with one finger, a little half quote. My promise is that we will get back to those offensive moments and discuss them before the rehearsal is over. We’ve only used the “offensive tick” once or twice, when someone says something purposefully outrageous; Nebraska Nice kicks in whenever folks get too hot.

On Friday, we’re scheduled to go until 8 pm. At 6:30, I mention that I am planning to excuse them an hour early, “since you are all students and I’m sure you’ve got parties to go to tonight.” A dozen fingers make a dozen tick marks. I must have looked completely puzzled since they all laugh.

“So every student parties on Friday nights?”

“Maybe we want to spend our Friday night rehearsing. Did you think of that?”

“You have a lot of personal bias about us, don’t you?”