Wednesday, July 24, 2013

After community pressure, Ottumwa, IA high school principal Mark Hanson cancels Laramie Project production; 'We were on the fence with it'

Former Ottumwa City High
Principal Mark Hanson
According to the Cincinnati-based Educational Theatre Association, The Laramie Project was the tenth-most-frequently produced non-musical play on high school stages during 2011-12, but after pot-stirring by a local radio station and local pressure, including an attempt by a local father to recall school board members who greenlighted the production, it was cancelled. “Could we have done it? Yeah,” said Hanson, the former principal at City High. “We were on the fence with it, but we came to the conclusion that it would be better at a community theater...” From the Iowa City Press Citizen:
     In Iowa, 14-year-old Kenneth Weishuhn of Primghar killed himself last year after coming out to his classmates, who had taunted him on Facebook. The documentary “Bully” brought national attention to Sioux City public schools around the same time. After the “Laramie” production at Valley, former Gov. Chet Culver visited the school to sign a bill to ban bullying in all Iowa schools.
     So Ottumwa students say it’s hard to understand why school administrators wouldn’t want them to produce a play that confronts those issues head-on.
     “It doesn’t make any sense,” said Jordan Young, a junior in the thespian group. “This is a show that deals specifically with bullying and the outcome that it had on an entire town because of one bullying incident. If they’re trying to get rid of bullying, then why would they say ‘no’ to this show?”  
      ...Ottumwa resident Pam Schulz, who has nine grandchildren in Ottumwa schools, was relieved to learn that the play will not be a high school production.
      “When I saw the article in the paper, I thought, ‘Well, that’s certainly the right approach,’ ” she said. “That’s not a play that should be promoted for any family entertainment.

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