I begin work on the signs on Monday night. It is after midnight; sometimes, between The Laramie Project and my scene design class, moving a bed into the design studio seems like not a bad idea. Mostly what I’m doing right now is making letter stencils. If the letters on the signs aren’t uniform, it’s going to drive me completely insane. To this end, I hang the stencils up on the white board so that I can see how they look together.
My boyfriend is here keeping me company. Mostly, he does his own work, but at one point, he glances up at what I’m doing, and does a major double take.
“What does that say?”
What it actually says is “GOD HATES F” because I’m not duplicating stencils, but he understood what it was going to say. So I explained the scene in which the signs are used. He understood, but he still seemed a little disturbed by the idea that I was helping to recreate a Westboro Baptist Church protest.
I leave the studio at 3:30 AM. The next morning, I’m back at 9. Now I’m building the actual signs, with help from Shreya (one of the scene shop students) and Kimi, both of whose names I probably just butchered. While there, I learn the following things:
- Unfamiliar people will always walk in at the worst possible moments, such as when you are asking how big to make the anal sex stick figures.
- Cutting with Xacto knives is so satisfying, especially when you need a form of stress relief.
- G is the most annoying letter of the alphabet, by leaps and bounds. At least S is consistently curvy, so that you make consistent motions with your knife. G suddenly becomes hard and angular when you don’t expect it to. I did not want to put the words “FAG SIN” on the stick figure sign the way they are in the picture, for the sole reason that I didn’t want to cut out another godforsaken G.
It’s fun. We have a good time. I feel a little dirty when it’s over, a feeling that is only exacerbated when several people in my scene design class ask me the next day what my unfinished signs are going to say.
I’m not sure why it eats at me this way sometimes. The Westboro signs are neither the weirdest (that would be an oversized vibrator) nor the most hateful or emotionally wrenching (that would be Hitler Youth armbands) props that I have ever made, and yet every time I leave a session of working on them, I feel like I need to take a nice, long, hot bath with some lavender bubbles.
I guess these hit closer to home. Talking and laughing with Kimi in the studio, it occurred to me that there is another group of young women (and men) who talk and laugh together while they make these signs, and they aren’t making props for a play.
Are we doing exactly what Father Roger says not to do? Are we propagating the cycle of violence this way? Are we, and is the play, legitimizing the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church by giving them this publicity, and this attention? It’s a fine line to balance, and not a question I enjoy thinking about right now. I don’t question their necessity as props, obviously, but I dislike giving them more name recognition than they already have.
On the bright side, I now have a great inside joke with a few people about “stick figures.”