But not in La Grande Oregon, where on Wednesday night, school board members voted to uphold Superintendent Larry Glaze’s decision to censor a student production of Steve Martin’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile”, ignoring spirited and articulate appeals from the High School principal and drama teacher. It was yet another disturbing case of school officials catering to the more censorious voices in their community. Prior to Wednesday night’s meeting, NCAC sent a letter to Superintendent Glaze urging him to reconsider his decision, calling for a greater respect for the students involved in the production, and stressing that:
Any parent concerned about the play’s content could simply keep his or her child out of the production and the audience, or protest in other ways… Not all parents in the community object to the play, and those who do have no right to impose their views on others or to demand that this production reflect their personal preferences.
This argument was echoed by some board members, who nonetheless lost in a contentious 4-3 vote.
Students and their supporter say the show will go on, perhaps on the stage of the local college.
LHS senior Richie Scott, who has a lead role in the play, is hopeful that the play can be performed off campus at a site such as EOU. “I want to let the community know that we will do the play regardless of what it takes. They have not silenced us.’’
This marks a trend of censored high school theatre productions going off campus to find a stage. Recently, canceled student productions of RENT have found their home on college stages. That students are not taking censorship lying down and that allies are coming forward in support of these productions is heartening. However, students should not have to leave campus in order to stage relevant contemporary theatre. The high school stage, in addition to providing entertainment, has a potential to be a vital platform for young people to explore the complexities of life. Or it can be reduced to a sanitized reflection of those who seek to impose their views on others, something educators and free speech advocates have an obligation to guard against.
We will continue to follow this story, and lend support to the community voices in La Grande that are standing up for student free expression.
In related news, reason prevailed somewhere this week: Principal allows ‘Rent’ after gay content uproar