Inspired by a true story, "Carl" tells of a young man's experience with being teased and bullied throughout school. The play opens with a 10-year reunion, then flashes back to his high school days, episodes in the lunchroom and classroom. We even see a brief bit of Carl's home life. Through the moving portrayal of Carl's life and ultimate suicide, members of the audience are compelled to examine their reactions to people who may be different. "Carl" is the winner of Minnesota's "Arc of Excellence Community Media Award."
FURTHER STUDY AND ROLE PLAY
BY E. JACK WILLIAMS
Questions for scene 1
1. Will you be looking forward to your class reunions?
2. Why do you think some people never attend reunions?
3. When reminiscing about events in your past, what are some of the moments you would like to remember?
4. Are there some things that have happened to you that you would like people to forget about?
5. Do you have a "green bean" or "rope caper" story to tell?
6. After ten years, people change. What types of changes in people are good?
7. What types of changes in people are bad?
Questions for scene 2
1. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." Is this a true statement?
2. C. J. Ducasse said, "To speak of 'meer words' is much like speaking of 'meer dynamite.'" How would you interpret this quote?
Questions for scene 3
1. The play, CARL, takes a bleak view of the relationship between students and the character we identify as Carl. Have you witnessed this type of behaviour?
2. The play, CARL, depicts the close relationship between Butch and his friends. Define the term "clique."
3. To what extent do these "cliques" exist in your school?
4. Are "cliques" important to you?
5. How do you become accepted into a "clique”?
6. Do boys handle the "clique" issue differently than girls do? How?
7. "Cliques" in CARL use each other to become accepted. Is being a member of a "clique" necessary to be accepted?
8. How many different personality traits can you identify? (Carl, the loner; Butch, the bully; etc.)
9. Is it important what others think about you?
10. Do clothes make us feel better? How?
11. Do you know people who judge others by what they wear?
12. Carl's speech deals with some painful realities. What were some of his concerns?
Questions for scene 4
1. How do you handle "fitting in”?
2. Have you ever known anyone like Carl that has found it
3. difficult "fitting in”? How?
3. What happens to people like Carl who find it difficult to "fit in”?
4. How can you help someone who just does not seem to "fit in" with any group?
5. Rachel defends Carl on a number of occasions. Have you ever had to stand up for someone?
6. Have you ever disagreed with the way a friend of yours treated someone and pretended to agree with them? How did you feel about the way you reacted?
7. Carl displayed anger when Butch took away his paper. When, if ever, is it right to physically show your anger? Have you ever been driven to the point of having to physically defend yourself?
8. How important is it for you to reach out to people like Carl?
9. How successful are teachers at your school in handling teasing problems?
10. What could your school do to improve Carl's situation?
Questions for scene 5
1. We saw Carl alone in his room crying because of his negative experiences at school and home. How do you deal with moments of sadness?
2. What are the characteristics of the "ideal" family?
3. What is the parent's role in dealing with teasing of their children?
4. What are the characteristics of a "dysfunctional" family?
5. With the little information given to us about Carl's home life, how does Carl's family match-up to the characteristics of a dysfunctional family?
6. When you know of someone living in a dysfunctional family, what can you do to help their situation?
Questions for scene 6
1. Upon graduation, Carl hopes that his "... life will get better." Is there any truth in the statement, "... this is the fun time of your life. Real life begins when you're done with school."?
2. What is the purpose of life?
3. What is it you need in life to feel okay?
4. How do you fulfil these needs?
5. How do you behave when your needs are not met?
6. What role do parents, friends, teachers, counsellors, religious leaders, play in fulfilling your needs in life?
7. How could these groups have helped Carl?
Questions for scene 7
1. As people grow older, do their concerns about being accepted change?
2. What do adults do to "fit in”?
3. It's okay to have fun and enjoy life. How do you feel about people who go out of their way to disrupt the fun and enjoyment of others? When and where do these situations occur?
Questions for scene 8
1. What did you notice about Missy's attitude? What caused her to change?
2. Missy said, "... There isn't much about high school I would change, just one thing." What is that one thing she would change?
3. Carl carried a piece of paper with him. What was the message on the paper? What does it mean?
4. In your own words, explain the overall message/theme of the play?
5. Could Carl's suicide have been prevented? (Answer, yes! If someone had given Carl a little more understanding, warmth, compassion, more ... time, he would have had something to live for.)
6. How would you rewrite the ending to the play?
ROLE PLAYING SITUATIONS
You have invited Carl to go to the movies with you and your friends. Thinking your friends would accept the idea, you didn't ask them beforehand. Now you hear that your friends don't want Carl to go with them. Carl arrives and tells you how excited he is about going. What do you tell him?
SITUATION #2 - GIRL
The kids you hang around with are very active students. Last week you went out with Carl and now your friends are looking down on you. Carl treated you with respect and you had a good time. The way your friends are acting, you know they find this hard to accept. What do you say to your friends?
SITUATION #3 - GIRL
You are sitting alone in a crowded lunchroom. Carl asks if he could sit at your table. You say "yes." At that moment a boy you have a "crush" on enters the lunchroom and you tell Carl, "I just remembered that my friends will be joining me soon. Sorry." The boy passes your table with not so much as a "hi" and no one joins you for lunch. Carl approaches your table after lunch. What do you say to him now?
You are a teacher. As you enter the classroom you hear students teasing Carl about his clothes. As soon as they see you enter, the teasing stops. Carl is obviously hurt by the comments. How would you handle this situation?
Your locker is next to Carl's. Every day students walk by and make negative comments to Carl. After listening to these comments by your peers, you finally decide to tell off the next person who makes a cutting remark to Carl. The next person is your best friend. What do you say?
You sit behind Carl in your first hour class. The teacher makes comments to Carl he thinks are funny - you do not. At the end of class you approach the teacher. What method would you use to discuss this situation?
After school you and your friends see Carl crying in the hall. The others make comments as they leave, but you stay. Carl is reluctant to open up to you at first, but eventually he does. He tells you he is lonely and would like to have a friend. He asks if you would be his friend. You are answering his question when your friends return. What do you say to Carl?
You are standing with your friends when they start to talk about a party that they were at but you knew nothing about. Next they talk about going to a movie and don't ask you to go. They exit leaving you alone, rejected and depressed. Carl has observed this harsh treatment and tries to console you. How do you react?
You are the mother of a child that comes home everyday crying about the way kids are treating him/her at school. Today is no exception. You can not take it any more. You must act NOW! What action would you take?
You work with Butch and Carl. Butch goes out of his way to treat Carl poorly. The manager warns Butch, "If you make one more negative comment to Carl, you're fired!" The manager tells Carl to inform him immediately if Butch's attitude does not change. While the manager is gone, the negative comments continue. Upon the manager's return, Carl is asked if everything is okay? Carl replies, "yes." Do you intervene?