Issue 104, Spring 2007
Edward Albee, Stephen Sondheim, Christopher Durang, Marsha Norman, John Guare, and other prominent members of the Dramatists Guild joined NCAC and other free speech advocates to oppose the censorship of a student play about Iraq in Wilton, CT.
Wilton High School’s Principal cancelled the play due to questions of “political balance” and context. A press release said the school plans to continue conversation about the issue, but still objects to the play’s use of found media and that the students planned to act out the roles of soldiers.
In a letter to the Superintendent, NCAC argued that the decision to “extend the educational dialogue” seems reasonable, but is suspect if its effect is to suppress students’ views. While school officials have considerable discretion in controlling school-sponsored activity, there are limits when it comes to suppressing non-disruptive political expression, as the Supreme Court recognized nearly 40 years ago. NCAC also emphasized that the use of “found text” and the choice to act out texts are both standard practices in documentary theatre. To remove these elements would compromise the integrity of the production.
The letter also offered reasonable alternatives to censorship, such as disclaimers, announcements, or a “talk-back” session to answer audience questions following the performance.
The play is still postponed until next year, when several of the student performers will have graduated. Fortunately, the students will get to perform the play before then: The Public Theatre and the Culture Project in NYC, and possibly a third theatre in Connecticut, have generously offered to host the play for performances in June.
The letter from NCAC was also signed by ABFFE, the ACLU of CT, the Dramatists Guild, FEPP, PFAW NE Regional Office, Feminists for Free Expression, and the YFEN Youth Advisory Board.