Late this afternoon, here in ever so politically correct Montgomery County Maryland, Winston Churchill High School Principal Joan Benz cancelled the fall musical production of Chicago. The opening performance is scheduled for November 13, less than three weeks from today.
Apparently, despite the listing of the show on the MCPS website and the guidelines for selecting a musical performance, the students and staff were allowed to begin production before the final script edits were negotiated between the school and the licensing agency; late last week, neither party would agree to edits that would maintain the integrity of the production without violating the community standards.
Who did the edits? A team of teachers from the school edited the language, violence, and totally eliminated one lead performer from the script. According to the MCPS policy:
If plays or musicals under consideration are otherwise suitable but contain minor themes or language which is unacceptable for secondary school performance, deletion of certain words can be made without altering the meaning of most plays. However, major editing is in violation of copyright laws governing specific plays, and the director should seek permission of the leasing agency.
What was left? Not enough according to the agency. Play cancelled.
Churchill performed the play a few years back - so why didn't they pull out the scripts previously used and approved under the policy? Yes, some school drama has questionable content, but that's theater. Rent and Les Miserables worked because the licensing agencies came up with a school approved version. Guys and Dolls seems to be enough of a vintage piece, despite the sex, gambling, and drinking themes, because it's scheduled for a middle school this fall (Pyle MS in December) and played at Fallsmead ES a few years back.
Bigger question - why didn't anyone notice earlier that the material was questionable? Who is paying attention to what happens in our kids schools and shouldn't this have been worked out BEFORE the kids set foot on the stage for a rehearsal?
Stay tuned. Given that the high school is in Potomac, where the usual rules don't seem to apply, this is just the beginning. Something smells foul, and it isn't written down in the script.
Update: October 27, 2009 2:30 PM - The show will go on! Principal Benz reverses her decision. "Break a leg" Churchill students!