Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Vegas Drama Club Drama!

Ut-oh. Them Bible thumpers are at it again. Then again, they wuz kinda provoked.

Y'see, Green Valley High School, one of the top public high schools in the region, decided to do some real cutting edge theater this year. This Monday, timed to the anniversary of the brutal 1998 attack on and death of Matthew Shepard, their theater group is doing "The Laramie Project." It's a brilliant spoken-word performance that tells the story of how a gay teenager's crucifixion rocked a Wyoming community and then the world. Then they do the same show again Nov. 12-14.

They're also scheduled for six performances of the Bohemian musical "Rent" in January and February.

Of course, both shows have lots of content that -- gasp! -- deals frankly and honestly with sexual orientation. To some, that's an evil that ought never utter its name in school. According to Ryan Maseo Smith, a friend and local gay club promoter, "Some community members feel that the subject matter is inappropriate for high school students to be performing and intend to have it removed."

It can't be a surprise that there's some pushback when you title your theater season "A Season of Controversy, Compassion and Courage." But "The Laramie Project" came off quite successfully in 2004 at the Las Vegas Academy, a magnet performing arts school here. In fact, Fred Phelps, the loony Kansas pastor who pickets funerals with signs that say "God Hates Fags," paid a visit, no doubt helping to sell it out.

Indeed, I confirmed what Ryan wrote via email with Geoff Neuman, the band director whose string quartet did "Smooth Criminal" in the Michael Jackson benefit we put on in August. Neuman wrote me back:

There has been pressure but we are NOT canceling anything. Our principal is on board. I will be conducting the put for Rent and The Laramie Project will go on, too.

That's good to hear. But just in case, I like the idea that Ryan provided in his urgent email plea today:

One of the students contacted me and asked that I write a letter of support to the principal. I felt the stronger response would be to help sell out the shows. What better response can a principal have to protesting conservative voices than, "We can't cancel the shows - We're SOLD OUT!" It would send a horrible message to the students if in a season of compassion, controversy and courage - conservative voices were able to strip away these two incredible and inspirational pieces of art. Without drawing more radical attention to the theatre program, you can make a huge show of support by purchasing a ticket and encouraging your friends to do the same (seats are only $10.00 - $15.00).

Of course, when you send out an email like this and encourage people to pass it along as Ryan did -- I got three copies myself today -- it's probably not likely you'll avoid drawing more attention to the situation.

But actually, attention in such a situation can be a good thing. Let the right-wingers, most of whom would protest these shows even though they've never seen or read them, make their case. The kids will see the bigotry of it all and, thus, a new group of hardened liberals will be minted.

In the meantime, if you want to check out the shows, visit here and get some tickets. They're also doing Shakespeare and "Little Women," too. Not sure where those fit into the year's promise of "controversy," but I've always found it sure does take some (liquid?) courage to sit through Shakespeare.


atdnext said...

How do I buy a ticket? I live in Green Valley, and I DEFINITELY want to show solidarity! I also want us to send a message that LGBT youth in "the 'burbs" need not be afraid to come out.


Go here and follow the link: http://www.gvhstheatre.com/Season.html

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