Author: Abbie Beane
The atmosphere was rich with sexuality, and layered with contention, anticipation and vulnerability. Sixteen minty fresh volunteers, including myself, sat stiffly under warm lights and the stares of a large audience, saturated with shameless voyeurists, and the disconcerting knowledge that we would soon become willing sexual pawns in the name of "The Art of Kissing".
William Cane, the man accountable for this highly amusing, controversial and strangely unique performance, is also author of the book "The Art of Kissing," and has done the show over 350 times for schools across the nation.
When asked why he is so interested in kissing, he replies simply, "Because I was born with a mouth."
For the student volunteers, the evening began an hour before the performance at a rehearsal in the Mitchell Green Lounge.
Cane reminded us that this was a demonstration and not an intimate encounter and that we would not be forced to participate in any kiss which caused personal discomfort. In the manner of a sensitive drill sergeant, he quickly taught 30 different techniques of kissing, many which involved exhaustive role-playing.
Cane reminded the audience that he was not endorsing other sexual acts, which could cause the transference of sexually transmitted diseases. He glorified kissing as "a safe way to get to know your partner."
In confidence Cane revealed that the purpose of this extended introduction was to keep the audience drooling for the kisses, so to speak. He wanted to agitate the sexual predator within the crowd, producing a build up which would serve to enhance the explosiveness of the first kiss.
Many of the kisses demonstrated and the slides shown of different techniques elicited uproarious laughter from the audience. A few kisses, however, seemed to disarm the audience as well as the participants.
The "South Pacific Kiss," involving violent biting and sucking of one's mouth and eyelashes, was also a frightening "display of affection," which I would not recommend trying at home. On the other hand, the ever-popular French kiss remained a safe bet. In fact, one of the audience's favorite parts of the show was the tongue demonstration, where Cane had two volunteers place red pillowcases over the upper halves of their bodies and move in different ways to demonstrate most capabilities of the tongue.
After the performance, the general audience stamped the package of Cane and the show as highly entertaining and fun, yet a bit disturbing and slightly offensive at times.
In fact, student protesters were adamant in expressing their negative opinions of Cane and even attempted to stage a protest following the performance.
One of the many messages protesters sent pertained to violence against women, which the goup felt that Cane was endorsing through his positive views of spanking women. To stand as the devil's advocate, Cane did describe this act merely as "a love pat," not to be confused as violent or aggressive.
When asked how the Middlebury College Activities Board (MCAB) goes about selecting performers, member Eve Coronado '02 explained that many performers seek out the College and some are chosen through the Anaca Conference, which gives college activities boards the chance to meet different performers and choose from among them.
Take this information how you will, but surprisingly Cane was previously a feminist action lawyer.
Coronado explains that if one goes into a show, created to be comedic and entertaining, which implies that it could also be offensive, realizing that it is merely entertainment, than that is what one will take away from it.
Coronado feels if one enters expecting offensive material, it will not only be found, but the comedy may be lost. It is important to recognize both aspects, while taking the show for what it was intended to be: comedy. It was invigorating to see a man so effective at dismantling human comfort zones, brought to the campus. An occasional rush of excitement, vulnerability and controversy is essential in making the college experience a more interesting and eye opening time for everyone.
Kiss and Tell An Insider's Take on 'Art of Kissing'
Author: Abbie Beane