Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes

By Hannah Moscovitch

Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes
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The archetypal student-teacher romance is cleverly turned on its head for the post-#MeToo era in this striking new play by the acclaimed author of What a Young Wife Ought to Know and Bunny.

Jon, a star professor and author, is racked with self-loathing after his third marriage ... Read more


Overview

The archetypal student-teacher romance is cleverly turned on its head for the post-#MeToo era in this striking new play by the acclaimed author of What a Young Wife Ought to Know and Bunny.

Jon, a star professor and author, is racked with self-loathing after his third marriage crumbles around him when he finds himself admiring a student—a girl in a red coat. The girl, nineteen-year-old Annie, is a big fan of his work, and also happens to live down the street. From their doorways to his office to hotel rooms, their mutual admiration and sexual tension escalates under Jon’s control to a surprising conclusion that will leave you wanting to go back and question your perceptions of power as soon as you finish.

Hannah Moscovitch

Hannah Moscovitch is an acclaimed Canadian playwright, TV writer, and librettist whose work has been widely produced in Canada and around the world. Recent stage work includes Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes and Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story (co-created with Christian Barry and Ben Caplan). Hannah has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Trillium Book Award, the Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award, the Scotsman Fringe First and the Herald Angel Awards at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and the prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize administered by Yale University. She has been nominated for the international Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the Drama Desk Award, Canada’s Siminovitch Prize in Theatre, and the Governor General’s Literary Award. She is a playwright-in-residence at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto. She lives in Halifax.

Excerpt

JON is writing. He’s struggling to focus on his work. After a pause, he closes the top of his laptop or pushes papers away. He looks up and without hesitation speaks to the audience.

JON: Well, he was agitated: he didn’t know why, nothing came to him.

JON stands and picks up his thermos of coffee, lifts it to his mouth, then hesitates.

JON: A few weeks ago, the janitor forgot to unlock the men’s washroom before office hours, so he’d had to urinate into his thermos, then he’d opened his door, and met with students, and discussed their essays with them, with a hot thermos of his own urine sitting on the windowsill.

JON looks down at the thermos. He looks back at the audience.

JON: Urine was, he knew, dissolved salts with a little organic yellow coloring in it. You just rinse it out and it’s fine.

JON hesitates, then forces himself to drink from it, forces himself to swallow, and then puts the thermos back down on his desk.

JON: He’d been trying to jot down lecture notes, but he’d been too agitated so he’d switched to grading papers and now he couldn’t even fucking do that, what the fuck was wrong with him?

Pause: JON considers. Realizes:

JON: And, huh, a dim image came to him. It was of a girl in a red coat. ...

Pause: JON sees the girl in his mind. .. Then:

JON: Could it be a fragment of. ..? His publishers were waiting on a novel about turn- of-the-century lumberjacks, so hopefully this girl was a part of that, or. ..could be shoehorned into it? Because also: come on, a girl, a young girl? Wasn’t there something deadly about the “young girl” as an object of fiction? Wasn’t it where writers went to expose their mediocrity? Because wasn’t it so often the “young girl” who was grossly underwritten, a cipher, a sex object, reduced to a cliché by lust addled-men?

JON looks at his watch or device.

JON: Nearly two o’clock.

Perhaps JON gets out an earpiece (a microphone) and puts it on.

JON: Which meant a lecture on the death of post-modernism and the rise of trans- realism with its adjacent mainstreaming of genre fiction to some ninety or so second years, so, that should really meet them where they were at.

JON regards the audience, to see if his joke registered.

JON: That was a joke.

Beat.

JON: Lately he’d had to point out to his students when he made jokes, as in “that was a joke”. Maybe his delivery. ..? Was too dry. ..? That or he was getting old.

Pause. He takes a last look at his notes before putting them away. Then to explain, still taking a last look at notes:

JON: He uh—he—he—he liked to lecture without notes and address his students with a casual, jokey style, as though he was saying to them, “We’re all just trying to make sense of these beautiful texts of staggering genius: I just happen to have spent a little more time with them than you have” because this was 2014, and anyway it didn’t help to intimidate the students. He was on the side of the Greeks: learning is a seduction.

Beat.

JON: The erotics of pedagogy. ..

Beat.

JON: That was the sort of thing you couldn’t say out loud without getting fired.

Beat.

JON: He watched as the throngs of students came into the auditorium, flung their book bags down, milled about small-talking, posturing, texting, scarfing cheap food. And—strange—he was still agitated as though he was waiting for something to happen? As though he was waiting for. ..?

A person enters. It’s a girl in a red coat. This is ANNIE. JON sees her. He is surprised to find the contents of his imagination are walking around in the world:

JON: It was the girl. The girl in the red coat.

Shift.

Awards

  • Governor General's Literary Award 2021, Winner
  • Jim Connors Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction 2022, Short-listed

Reviews

“Beyond providing her signature sharp sense of humour .  .  .  the intrigue in Moscovitch’s script is in discovering why she’s playing with such traditional tropes, so out of character for the playwright who has written so frankly about female sexuality. ”

“Powerful and clever and funny. ”

“Everything about Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes was perfect. I loved it. ”

Reader Reviews

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