NCAC has been following the case of Picasso at the Lapin Agile in La Grande Oregon for the past month or so. After receiving a call from a concerned parent, we wrote a letter to the Superintendent explaining how and why his decision to cancel the Steve Martin play was, well, wrong. Unfortunately, a little saber rattling from New York wasn’t enough to do the trick, nor did local protest persuade the school board, who elected ( in a close 4-3 vote) to uphold the decision. This prompted local university faculty and students to voice support for an off campus production, something that was in the works, and has received quite a boost now that renowned comedian author Steve Martin has stepped in. Martin made his appearance in La Grande in the form of a letter published in the local paper on March 13. He playfully takes on some the criticisms leveled against the play:
I have heard that some in your community have characterized the play as “people drinking in bars, and treating women as sex objects.” With apologies to William Shakespeare, this is like calling Hamlet a play about a castle. This play is set in an actual bar in Paris that was frequented by Picasso, a historical site that still exists today.
While Martin recognized that there are lines that some parents may find objectionable, his letter ultimately affirms the merit of performing the play, and ends with what find to be a very decent proposal:
To prevent the play from acquiring a reputation it does not deserve, I would like to offer this proposal: I will finance a non-profit, off-high school campus production (low-budget, I hope!), supervised and/or directed by Mr. Cahill and cast at his discretion, so that individuals, outside the jurisdiction of the school board but within the guarantees of freedom of expression provided by the Constitution of the United States, can determine whether they will or will not see the play, even if they are under 18. I predict that the experience will not be damaging, but meaningful.
NCAC to Martin: Good on you Steve.