UPDATE 4/21/15: We are thrilled to learn that Evolution will officially go on as planned, uncensored, on Friday, April 24—the originally scheduled premiere date. Congratulations to the Cherokee Trail High School students on their well-earned victory!
This week a group of high school theater students in Aurora, Colorado spoke up when they felt they were being censored by school officials. The next day, administrators announced the show was back on.
But there are still questions.
On April 15, advanced theater students at Cherokee Trail High School were told that their student-written production, Evolution, would not go on as planned because of “uncomfortable” material. That material? A kiss between two students of the same gender, and a monologue about transsexuality. The students told us that an administrator did not believe the community was ready for such topics, and canceled the April 24th premiere.
Outraged, the students took it upon themselves to speak up and speak out. They created a Facebook page, contacted local media, and reached out to NCAC for guidance.
As the students explained it on their Not Original Facebook page:
the school’s administration decided to cut the show because it dealt with issues that were uncomfortable to the taxpayers. These issues included, homosexuality, transgender issues, and domestic issues. It was stated that the community was incapable of handling this and that our issues were ultimately too controversial to be shown on the stage. All original pieces of work ultimately had to be scrapped in favor of already established plays that would be palatable to the audience.
There’s no doubt they spooked their administration. On April 16, Cherokee Trail High Principal Kim Rauh sent a letter to parents warning them about a news story they might see, and letting them know that it was all simply a misunderstanding about the normal process of administrative review. As a spokesperson for the district told a local TV outlet, the students “submitted the plays to be performed, but we didn’t get them until it was too late to follow through with our routine process for looking at student performances.”
The school’s story is that sensitive content triggers “extra steps” in that review process. But as the principal explained in her letter, “Delaying the performance was not an attempt to censor the content of the plays.” The shows will now go on, scheduled for May 9.
We welcome the news that the show will go on, but there are some still some lingering questions. Some of the students say the message they got was not about a careful review; the show was to be canceled outright. And, as Howard Sherman of the New Schoo’s Arts Integrity Initiative noted on Facebook, the “rescheduled date for the student-written shows places them squarely in the midst of AP and IB testing at the school, a familiar tactic to destabilize an unwanted production.”
While there are still unanswered questions about how things went down at Cherokee Trail High, we encourage administrators to respect students’ right to free expression by allowing Evolution to be produced as written, without alterations.