They must be stopped
Ok, now these assholes are really pissing me off. According to the *New York Times* last week a high school in Missouri did a production of *Grease* that set off a protest from a Christian group: GREASE, for crying out loud! And not even the real *Grease* but a sanitized version in which the swear words had been taken out. And here’s the kicker: even though the protest consisted of three letters from the same church, and one of the letter writers hadn’t even seen the show, it prompted the school to cancel their upcoming production of *The Crucible.*
These people have got to be stopped.
That it is the *Crucible* a play about the Salem witch hunts that was written as a commentary on the McCarthy witch hunts is the height of irony. Or is it? The only thing that could be morally offensive in the play is that John Proctor has had an affair which figures strongly in the plot. But that happens before the play even begins and, let’s face it, he certainly receives a kind of retribution for it. No, the offense in *The Crucible* is entirely political: on the one hand it is a play condemning political witch hunts, a warning against the abuse of political power by a conservative majority in a time of perceived National crises. On the other hand it is it is a play about religious witch hunts, concerning the dangers of fundamentalism and fervor. In the end, whether you see the Salem witch hunts or the communist witch hunts that lie beneath, the play makes republicans look bad.
But it’s more then that. This anti-theatrical bias has been around since Plato and it is something that my profession constantly has to fight against (and I have literally been to the barricades in that fight, and will continue to go there). But once they start banning plays the next place they get to go is to banning books. And don’t doubt for a minute that they will go there if they can.
They must be stopped.
Now I’m not going to go to Missouri and protest (though I’m wondering where is the outrage of the student body over this: in my day we would have had some kind of response). I don’t want to be seen as the city slicker from New York coming in and treating all those God fearing folk like a bunch of dumb hicks. I come from folk like that and I don’t want to insult them in that way. And it’s not a second amendment issue. The school has the right to put on whatever shows they want or not. But, as a doctor of theatre, they are attacking me and mine when they protest to silence the stage, and the nature of this particular protest is insane. These are the second most produced musical and the second most produced play in American high schools (after *Seussical* and *A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream*), the one contested and the other shut down by a protest from a single church group that talks about these things on a user’s group. In America. It sickens me.
But maybe we should go. The only way to stop these people is to meet them at the baricades. Meet protest with protest, letters with letters, and face them down. Christian groups bussed hundreds of protestors to New York to try and shut down *Corpus Christi* in '98. I took part in the counter protest. It got the show probably more attention then it deserved, and it got the message across that some people would not tollerate religious bigotry silencing the voices of American playwrights. Every time they try to silence a film or a book, or a T.V. show, or a play, or a cartoon, we have to stand up and say "No!"
Just for the record when I was in high school I directed a production of *The American Dream* (I was in way over my head with that one, but no matter) in which my lead actor was pulled out by his parents on religious objections to the script. It certainly tainted my views on this subject. I also suspect that in this day and age we might have gotten some hassles over *The Corn is Green* (high school girl gets knocked up), *The Man Who Came to Dinner* (extramarital sex), *The Pajama Game* (woman who sleeps around a lot), and *Over Here* (song about V.D.—no, I’m not kidding, it’s an army training film turned into a musical number: sex education, can’t have that).