A school district in the Midwestern US state of Iowa has canceled a performance of The Laramie Project, a play about the impact of the murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard.
Ottumwa High School drama students were prepared to stage Moisés Kaufman’s work in the upcoming school year, but district officials denied permission.
‘The rationale is we really want to produce and showcase family-friendly productions, where all family members can come,’ District Superintendent Davis Eidahl said to The Ottumwa Courier.
‘The productions are to showcase our students, our auditorium, the district. And it’s a time we connect with the community,’ Eidahl continued.
Students are confused by the decision, especially considering how the high school principal is a proponent of anti-bullying programs.
‘None of us can understand why they are shying away from it,’ Jordan Young, secretary of the drama club, said to the newspaper. ‘The principal [of OHS] wants to get away from bullying, and he has initiatives he really [pushes]. So to hit so hard on a show that addresses bullying, it makes no sense.’
In 1998, Shepard was beaten and tied to a fence in the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming. Six days later he died.
A month later the Tectonic Theater Project, co-founded by Kaufman, went to the town and interviewed residents. Those conversations make up the play.
While superintendent admits the play has value, he wonders if there are other ways to teach those ideas to the community.
‘Just because it’s not taking place at Ottumwa High School doesn’t mean it won’t appear in Ottumwa,’ Eidahl said to the newspaper. ‘There’s a time and place for this play.’
The drama students promise to lobby the community to have the district change its decision.