Student Production of mice and men cancelled
May 30, 2001
On May 3, 2001 a student production of Of Mice and Men was to open at Dacula High School in Dacula, Georgia, until Principal Donald Nutt abruptly canceled it on May 1st. The reported reason for the action by Nutt was because the student actors involved with the production refused to remove profanity and "racially insensitive" language from the script. Nutt claimed to have acted in response to complaints to students who had seen a rehearsal and said that he had no prior knowledge that the school’s production would include the offensive language.
Of Mice and Men is a seminal work of American fiction authored by John Steinbeck who won a Nobel Prize in 1962 for his collected works. Of Mice and Men‘s gritty portrayal of the life of early 20th century migrant workers in America and the complex relationship between the novel’s two main characters, George and Lenny, has been adapted into movies, plays, operas and even cartoons. Of Mice and Men has been used for instruction in schools across the country for decades and is consistently listed as a favorite book of students. As high school teacher Esther McCune noted:
"When students are asked to list their favorite books, Of Mice and Men is one of the books most frequently mentioned …Of Mice and Men is not a book about sex and violence. It is about love, loyalty, friendship, hope, loneliness, fear, and courage. It informs us about the poor and downtrodden and their attempt to survive in an indifferent world."
Thankfully, the Belladonna Repertory Company stepped in and allowed the students to use its rented stage in nearby Atlanta free of charge so that the show could go on, free of any changes in content.
In a letter dated May 7, 2001, the National Coalition Against Censorship admonished Dacula High School Principal for his decision to effectively censor the play instead of utilizing the controversy to educate students and the larger community about the educational benefits of controversial art. The NCAC also warned Nutt that his actions may have the effect – intended or unintended – of students choosing bland, non-controversial plays to produce in the future rather than risk additional censorship. Finally, the NCAC offered to assist Dacula High School in the development of a policy to help avoid future incidents. To date, we have received no response from Principal Nutt.