Update: South Williamsport High School Principal Talks Canceled SPAMALOT, Gay, 'Controversial' Themes
As BroadwayWorld reported earlier this Summer, via blogger and industry professional Howard Sherman, South Williamsport, a high school in Lycoming County, PA, had been forced to cancel their spring production of Monty Python's Spamalot due to "controversial content," which includes a homosexual marriage. According to WNEP, the school administrators thought that the musical's subject matter was too inappropriate for students.
Today, the local paper, the Sun Gazette has quotes from the principal, meant to, but not exactly illuminating his stance. Click here for the full story.
Smith told the Sun-Gazette that the email was never a discussion on homosexuality.
"The email was never a commentary on gay weddings in general or the appropriateness of them," Smith said.
"When we have extracurricular activities, we do not ask the students to make a choice as to what they might deem controversial material," he said.
Smith elaborated that he doesn't want students to feel compromised.
"I don't want kids to feel like they had to choose between performing and what they felt was controversial material. They should be able to sign up for a play and know that it's school-sponsored and they won't have to make a moral or ethical decision," Smith said.
"I just want students to feel free to join the play and not feel like they are compromising their views based on the content," he added.
Smith said he never wanted the decision to nix "Spamalot" to snowball into a controversy.
"The other point I want to make is, people are making this out to be a battle for or against gay marriage," Smith said. "This was intended to protect students so they're not in a position to choose between what they believe in and participating."
Smith said he's not limiting students' right to discuss controversial topics but would prefer a different setting.
"I'm all for discussion on controversial topics, be it the Second Amendment, gay rights or abortion, but there's a time and place for that in the classroom," Smith said.
Earlier this month, emails had been revealed uncovering the nature of the conversation between school Principal Jesse Smith and Superintendent Dr. Mark Stamm, according to a blog by industry professional Howard Sherman. After seeking access to their correspondence through Pennsylvania's 'Right to Know Law,' Sherman just now received further information regarding the decision to cancel the show.
An email from Smith to Burch from June reads:
"Finally, you told me late in the school year that you were looking to perform Spamalot for your spring 2015 musical. I have some concerns such as a guy sending another guy a message on girl's underwear and a gay wedding to be performed. If you are still planning to perform this then we will need to talk."
A later email from Smith to Burch reads:
"I am not comfortable with Spamalot and its homosexual themes for two main reasons:
1. Drama productions are supposed to be community events. They are supposed to be performances that families can attend. To me, this kind of material makes it very hard for this to take place. I don't want families to be afraid of bringing small kids because of the content. I don't want members of the community staying home because they feel the material is too risqué or controversial.
2. I think that choosing productions with this type of material or productions that may be deemed controversial put students in a tough spot. I don't want students to have to choose between their own personal beliefs and whether or not to take part in a production."