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The Slap
by Celia Jones

It was 1966, and I was a new Drama student at the University of California Berkeley campus. My first acting experience was as the lead in an anti-establishment play, a kind of modern ‘Antigone’.  The play’s writer/director  Rosemary was a tall, elegantly thin wraith with curly, flowing blond hair and floral, hippie dress.  My recollection of performing this play is rather fuzzy except for one scene, where the script called for me to slap ‘my uncle’. Since I had never before slapped anyone’s face, my initial attempts in rehearsal were rather feeble.

After watching  a couple of  my limp-wristed efforts, the ethereal Rosemary suddenly transformed into a fury spitting out, “You call that a slap!?”  In a flash, she was on me like an oversized Valkyre, demonstrating on my face:“This is how you do it.  Just cup your hand and hit on the jaw line so it makes a loud noise but doesn’t hurt,” giving my mug an almighty crack. “Bullshit,” I cried, “that hurt like hell!” “That’s because you flinched.   Let’s try it again, and don’t flinch,” the harpy growled as she slapped my flinching face several times in quick succession.  I’d heard that you had to suffer for your art, but this was ridiculous as I struggled to hold back my tears.

I thought I was suddenly in a skit from the TV anarchic series “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”, where John Cleese and Michael Palin are standing on a pier, each with a large fish in hand.  They proceed to slap each other with their fish in a ballet of military precision until one falls in the water.

We eventually got the slap right at the performance; at least it didn’t hurt me a bit when I slapped the other actor. Though the precision of our scene wasn't 'balletic', it certainly was as nonsensical.

Celia Jones