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Jul 05 2014

Principal Cancels Play, Claims No Gay People Exist There

The principal of a school in Pennsylvania forced the drama department to cancel a production of Monty Python’s Spamalot because two of the characters in it are gay and, she claimed, there are no gay people in their small town so it would be inappropriate.

Dawn Burch, director of the school’s drama department, told WNEP news that Principal Jesse Smith wrote an email to her informing her that homosexuality does not exist in a conservative community such as South Williamsport. Smith did not respond to a ThinkProgress inquiry regarding these specific comments.

Instead, Superintendent Mark Stamm responded to ThinkProgress with a statement explaining that since the drama program includes students from grades 7-12, “We want our performances to be appropriate for the student performers and audiences so that anyone participating or watching can enjoy all aspects of the show.”…

Past performances by the South Williamsport Jr/Sr High School Drama Department include Pippin, in which the main character stabs his own father to become king, Romeo and Juliet, in which the protagonists commit suicide at the end, and Urinetown, a satirical comedy in which people are punished with death if they refuse to pay to use the toilet.

So all those things are fine, but showing gay people in a play? Scandal! Outrage! And, of course, bigotry. Welcome to small town America.

26 comments

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  1. 1
    Jeremy Shaffer

    “We want our performances to be appropriate for the student performers and audiences so that anyone participating or watching can enjoy all aspects of the show.”…

    Yeah, because who hasn’t been threatened with death for not paying to use the toilet. A tale as old as time itself.

  2. 2
    DaveL

    Also cancelled:

    MacBeth- because nobody in the town is a king;
    The Tempest – because nobody in the town is a wizard
    A Midsummer Night’s Dream – because nobody in town in a faerie.

  3. 3
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Yeah, because who hasn’t been threatened with death for not paying to use the toilet. A tale as old as time itself.

    You obviously haven’t lived in a small conservative town.

  4. 4
    busterggi

    So I take it that ‘Steambath” has been indefinately postponed?

  5. 5
    democommie

    “Yeah, because who hasn’t been threatened with death for not paying to use the toilet. A tale as old as time itself.”

    Well, not quite, but…:

    http://www.wsmv.com/story/21310627/woman-receives-bill-after-taking-a-restroom-pit-stop

    They should prolly just do something totally topical in a small Pensyltucky town, Romeo and Juliet, a play about a couple of 14 yo killing themselves because they can’t get married–due to the “Hatfield-McCoy Effect”.

    On second thought that wouldn’t ring true either, unless they were siblings.

  6. 6
    bahrfeldt

    The play was also never staged in Iran, reportedly for the same reason.

  7. 7
    grumpyoldfart

    Land of the free and home of the brave.
    (What a load of crap that is)

  8. 8
    Childermass

    They probably should cancel any play that deals with people who are not white. While it is technically not true that there are no nonwhites, there certainly not very many. Indeed looking at the demographics on Wikipedia, the numbers scream “former sundown town.”

  9. 9
    dingojack

    I hear they won’t do >I>Our Town either. The play doesn’t have an hate filled, moronic bigots in it.
    Dingo

  10. 10
    Nice Ogress

    “We can’t put it on because there’s gays in it! Gays are terrifying!”
    “…Terrifying? What’s your definition of ‘gay’?”
    “Scaly, a hundred feet long… breathes fire…”
    “That’s dragons, dear.”
    “GAY dragons, though!”

  11. 11
    raven

    two of the characters in it are gay and, she claimed, there are no gay people in their small town so it would be inappropriate.

    This is a non sequitur. The first part doesn’t have anything to do with the second part.

    I guess Peter Pan, Cinderella, Snow White, and The Crucible are out too.

    No pirates, fairies, fairy godmothers, witches, or dwarfs live in South Williamsport. (I’m sure they could find enough Puritans to fill the alleged witch murderer parts of The Crucible though.)

  12. 12
    John Pieret

    Smith wrote an email to her informing her that homosexuality does not exist in a conservative community such as South Williamsport

    Well, thank goodness the school district doesn’t want to educate their kids to navigate in the wide world outside of South Williamsport. That way the little bigots they are trying to raise will stay there, flipping burgers and fixing the local fleet of pickup trucks, and will leave the rest of us alone.

    Checked where South Williamsport was and it confirms James Carville’s saying: “Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between.”

  13. 13
    monimonika

    According to an update plus a link in the update, the school is claiming that the email comment about homosexuality not existing is mis-attributed to Principal Smith. “The district has an idea who was the source of the statement wrongly attributed to Smith and it is not a staff member, school board President John J. Engel Jr. said.”

    http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2014/07/erroneous_report_about_student.html

  14. 14
    John Pieret

    In the interest of fairness (and not being like the wingnut rumor machine) the local TV station is now saying the principal’s email didn’t include the statement that there are no gays in the town:

    An earlier version of this story mistakenly attributed comments about homosexuality not existing in the community to an email sent by the high school principal. In fact, the email did NOT contain those comments. Newswatch 16 regrets the error and apologizes for any confusion.

    http://wnep.com/2014/07/01/school-drops-musical-because-of-questionable-content/

    How much that lowers the stupidity factor of the school district I leave to the reader.

  15. 15
    raven

    I’m not sure what a culturally appropiate play for South Williamsport would be. There might not be any.

    1. A teenage married couple who are closely related with 3 children, set up a still in the woods. After a few gun battles with rival stills, they own the Moonshine market and fine Moonshine it is.

    They get rich and join the Sovereign Citizens. When the FBI shows up looking for the last 10 years taxes, they kill them and run. They die in another gun battle while trying to flee to Canada by ramming the border post with a large pickup with very oversized wheels.

    2. Or maybe it’s already been done. The TV series Breaking Bad was about someone starting up a Methamphetamine manufacturing empire. I never watched it so this is just a guess.

    3. Something with Zombies in it. In this play, the Zombies win and end up running a town called South Williamsport. Or something with Borgs, Hive Minds from Star Trek, Waco/Koresh, or Jonestown/Guyana.

    4. Hmmm, I’m seeing some possibilities here. Maybe Connie Willis should write a story about this place.

  16. 16
    wordsgood

    No gay people? Hmm, let’s think about this…

    In 2007, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia Universary. Let’s see, he was speaking as the leader of a theocracy. Bigoted principal of school makes the same claim for her entire community. Putting aside that one had the power to imprison, torture and execute people, I fail to see the difference in terms of ignorant willful adherance to religious ideologies and their determination to ensure everyone must feel the same way.

    Lest I be accused of not having my facts straight:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-483746/We-dont-gays-Iran-Iranian-president-tells-Ivy-League-audience.html

  17. 17
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    So .. Just like Ahmadinejads Iran then?

    And just as worthy of ridicule.

  18. 18
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @Ann-nd wordsgood beat me to it and I missed seeing it.

    D’oh! Shoulda read those comments first. Mea culpa.

  19. 19
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Hmm .. they could do this Knights of the Round table’ thing instead maybe :

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luVjkTEIoJc

    Well, its only a model!

  20. 20
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @10. Nice Ogress : That’s nothing! Wait till they see the Running of the Jeeuuuww!

  21. 21
    Modusoperandi

    Oh we got no trouble,
    Right here in River City…

  22. 22
    Larry Kearney

    What they really need are some totally non-gay plays to put on, say, plays by Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, or Noel Coward.

  23. 23
    jnorris

    Can’t do Spamalot because there are no gays in town. Helen Crump cancelled Porgy and Bess because there are no black people in Mayberry.

  24. 24
    chilidog99

    The Principal is just showing her support for the former president of Iran.

  25. 25
    eric

    We want our performances to be appropriate for the student performers and audiences so that anyone participating or watching can enjoy all aspects of the show.”…

    Has any performance art, ever, met that standard? Anyone enjoys all aspects?

    I would hazard to say that not only is that impossible, but I bet there are some artists who would say that if you ever accomplished it, you’re doing art wrong.

  26. 26
    Foster Disbelief

    And it isn’t even a small town. I used to live right across the river from South Williamsport. It is part of Williamsport, which is by definition a city.

    @12: As a resident of central Pennsylvania (Altoona area) I can confirm that it is indeed Alabama between the two major cities. Or as I like to call it, Pennsyltucky.

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