Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Spanked! Needs More Development

Also see Richard's review of Kilt

The New Conservatory Theatre Center is presenting Ian MacKinnon and Aaron Hartzler in their probing autobiographical performing artist thesis called Spanked! This show is not for everyone, but may be for those who are curious about the sexual connotations of spanking and those who might be titillated by the title and a possibility of seeing more.

Spanked! was part of the 2002 New York Fringe festival and got interesting comments from several critics. The play appeared in several theaters in Los Angeles with the L.A. Weekly's Paul Birchall critic calling it "a deeply personal and nuance piece ... sizzling and intimate." I have to agree it is intimate in this small bandbox of a theater that seats about 30 persons. There is a balance of kinkiness and romantic love coming from these two young men.

Ian MacKinnon and
Aaron Hartzler

Ian and Aaron trace how the terrors of childhood whippings become a pleasurable adult activity with them. The two, who are lovers, use dance, singing, props and slides to present their points of view. They use spanking as a symbol to exemplify the paradoxes of sexual relationships. There is entanglement of affection, lust and shame with the physical act.

Aaron opens the piece by giving us a lecture on the history of spanking from early times to the present, and both actors tell stories about their earliest memories and how they had different backgrounds growing up in the mid-west. MacKinnon's father was an agnostic archaeologist who was always away from home. The young boy had a strong sexual attraction to his father and always felt deserted when his father left on various journeys.

Hartzler has the most powerful and interesting story about how his fundamentalist minister father believed in the basics of "spare the rod and spoil the child." The young boy was constantly spanked, even for minor infractions. The father said it was his Christian duty to break the young boy's will "so his soul shall live." The father would tell young Aaron that spanking was "the board of education to the seat of learning."

Spanked! is actually a work in progress, and both young men admit they are working on certain parts of the 80 minute program. It still needs more development, and some of the side issues, such as their fascination with male briefs, sidetrack their main purpose, which is to tell the audience that spanking young boys' bottoms should be considered sexual abuse.

Ian, who was a dancer in regional musicals, attempts to sing songs like "Love Hurts," but his voice is off key. He also attempts some Martha Graham dance moves on the small living room stage that are somewhat amateurish. There are interesting slides of the boys growing up along with photos of their fathers. Spanked! also has a long obligatory sex spanking scene for those who like that sort of thing.

Spanked! needs to be more focused on the boyhood stories, their first meetings and their romantic life together today. Once the piece is tightened, this could be a fascinating piece of theater.

Spanked! plays thru September 14th at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, Ca. For tickets call 415-861-8972 or visit

Photo: Cary Conover

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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