I have written several times about the banning of Steve Martin's play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile by the La Grande school district. This play is being directed by my friend, Kevin Cahill, who teaches English and French at the high school there.
I'm writing to let you know that Kevin appeared today on a call-in show on Oregon Public Broadcasting, Think Out Loud (that link takes you to an mp3 of the show), to speak about the troubles. You should all go and listen.
Also appearing on the program were two people who opposed the production, Mrs Melissa Jackman, the woman who initially complained about the play and eventually got it banned from the high school; and a pastor from a local church.
I originally thought about expressing the following views in the comments section of Kevin's blog, but decided against it. I didn't want anyone to misconstrue that my opinions were the same as Kevin's. I believe that Kevin has made his own views well enough known.
The individuals who spoke against the play, especially Mrs Jackman, seem, to me, almost completely divorced from reality. She spoke several times about how the play's content--content which includes people talking about sex and pretending to drink alcohol--meant that her daughter could not participate in the production. She goes on to say that her daughter can't take part because she has higher standards. That's telling. Not "different standards", but higher. Because anyone with standards that differ from hers must, by definition, have lower standards.
Later in her taped interview, Mrs Jackman asks rhetorically if the best thing to have children do is to talk on stage about sex because, she says, there are already seventeen pregnant teens at the high school. By all means, Mrs Jackman, let's not have your students talk about sex. I mean, whatever you're doing now is apparently working like gang-busters.
And finally, I wonder if Mrs Jackman knows who Steve Martin is. When asked for her reaction to Mr Martin's offer to help fund the play, she seems at a loss. She implies that Mr Martin is doing this to gain publicity for his play. Because I'm sure that Mr Martin has been looking at the weekly receipts for his play (a play first staged in 1993 and not in production at any major American theaters as far as I can find on google.com) and thinking that one thing he really needs to boost ticket sales is for some backward-thinking school district to ban his play so he can swoop in and save the day. You know, for publicity. It's almost laughable. Almost.
Something I haven't written about here is that as a result of this controversy, the La Grande school district is going to evaluate and, more than likely, revise its guidelines for choosing the plays that are mounted at the high school. The subtext here is that they will regulate away the possibility that anything with any depth or complexity will ever be produced. I hope the kids interested in drama in La Grande will be happy with endless productions of Seussical the Musical and Little Women, because that's all they're going to get after this is all over.
Again, for a more eloquent review of this whole situation, I encourage you to visit Kevin's blog and read his excellent commentary.