Sunday, March 15, 2009

Banning update (Steve Martin walks into a bar...)

I have written a few times about my friend, Kevin, and his problems staging a production of Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile at the high school in La Grande, Oregon, where he teaches. For my previous posts, you can go here, and here. But really, what you should do is visit Kevin's blog where he writes about the troubles with eloquence and a level head.

I'm writing about the play again because there's been, to me anyway, a very interesting development. One way or another, Steve Martin has become aware of the banning and he's weighed in. Mr Martin wrote a letter of support that was published in the La Grande newspaper. In addition to this, Mr Martin has offered to finance the play's production in it's off-campus site. This is a an amazing act of generosity, in my opinion, and my esteem for Mr Martin, which was already considerable, has gone up even more.

Since the playwright has weighed in with his support, the story has blown up. It has been mentioned on Entertainment Weekly Online, and the BBC.

If this kerfuffle had to happen at all, this seems like the best possible resolution.


Anonymous said...

Hey, Adam, GrKH here. I think you and Beth should go into the online recyling/helmet business. Her milk jug/Duct tape helmets for Colm's party are fantastic, and your recycled (or did you steal that from a child still using it?/give it back) childseat is fab. It would improve any sci-fi movie and may have improved the Watchmen ratings if they'd thought of it. It really is fabulous. Much cooler than the conehead look or the overused alien insect cranium look. So overdone. Plus if you add a catcher's face mask, you've got the perfect protective helmet for napping around child/children who might be tempted to conk you with a bottle or a misplaced balpeen hammer to get your attention.

On to my polling question: Should the LG high school be the beneficiary of any potentially large donation pool collected in the name of the controversial play and the kids involved, given the fact that the Board banned the play and forced the kids off campus, took back the scripts and cut off school funds to the teacher and production? It's an interesting question. Would the school not prefer to pass up such ill-gotten goods under those circumstances? Surely the parents/ students who did not want to participate would not want to use such funds for future scholarships and productions.

kevin said...

You know, I've always liked Steve Martin but this episode has made me appreciate him in a new way. He seems thoughtful in a considerate and humane way. Not that I'm shocked by that but I guess I never really had occasion to wonder about other aspects of his character than the obvious ones surrounding his talents as a comedian and writer. One thing though, watching his Pink Panther movies is just plain wierd after seeing him play the White Knight in real life.

Kevin Newland Scott said...

Adam -- I'm a fellow resident of Salem who first found out about Kevin Cahill and le lapin à Gill though a post on the PDXBackstage Yahoo! group, referring to the Oregonian's posting of a story about Martin's letter and offer -- I have since been back through the news archives and KC's (most excellent) blog, and think I am pretty much up to speed on the whole sordid story, including the threatened appointment by the school board of a play selection committee, since teachers like Mr. Cahill and administrators like his Principal Potter cannot be trusted to choose non-controversial works, nor to strategically back-pedal, like good little educators, when faced with unintended controversy. (What do they think the school board is paying them their salaries for? -- and why are they wasting their time and perverting the purpose of the public education system by trying to encourage independent thought among their students?)

My own family's experience in these waters includes my daughter Ellie's 2002 stint as Salem's poster child for anti-censorship: as noted then in an article on the front page of the Statesman Journal, she was one of the eighth grade students at Parrish Middle School who objected to the blacking out of "objectionable" passages in the text of "The Epic of Gilgamesh" -- an action ironically taken during Banned Books Week!

As an actor and director with professional experience, and as a one-time holder of a certificate to teach secondary English, speech an drama, and as Ellie's dad, I see this playing out all too predictably -- I fear the kerfuffle will not be entirely resolved by a successful off-campus production of Steve Martin's play, and that Mr. Cahill, Mr. Potter, and the professor who found the way around the President's ban on the use of the EOU theater may well yet be punished for their good deeds. Meanwhile, I recommend a very good article on "Censorship and School Theatre" by Don Corathers, published in the Winter 2007 issue of the Educational Theatre Association journal Teaching Theatre.

(The last link is to a PDF document -- it might be preferable to right-click on the link and choose "Save Target As" to save it to disk, and open from there in Adobe Acrobat Reader.)

Sarah said...

I love the writer of that SJ article on Gilgamesh. ;-)

Sarah said...

Oh, and a serious comment. I loved Steve Martin's letter, and my admiration for him also increased. The letter was so respectful of the local residents' POV.