Play in Ohio pulled over raunchy dialogue

OHIO — The audience for Yellow Springs HighSchool’s “One Acts,” an annual fundraiser showing one-actplays written and directed by students, saw one less play Friday when a seniorrefused to alter character dialogue prohibited by administrators.

Norm Glismann, superintendent of the Yellow Springs school district, said PrincipalJohn Gudgel asked the play director on Jan. 23 if there were any plays thatcould present problems. The play director is brought in by the school tocoordinate the plays, Glismann said.

“I’m in my first year assuperintendent,” Glismann said. “The principal shared with me thatlast spring there were concerns about one of the one-act plays … He said therewere complaints.”

On Feb. 6 the play director notified theprincipal that one play, Peter Keahey’s “Catcalls,” was causefor concern. Glismann said both he and Gudgel read the play and noticed six toseven items that were prohibited by the student handbook.

“All thethings we objected to are prohibited by our student handbook,” he said.

“That’s all I prefer to say at this point.”

Attempts tocontact Keahey on Monday and Tuesday by e-mail and at the school wereunsuccessful. Yellow Springs High School was closed Tuesday.

English teacherDesiree Nickell said the play featured construction workers who were beingsexist toward women who would walk by their work site. The play had ananti-sexist message and criticized the men for hitting on the women.

All ofthe prohibited language was a part of a pick-up line delivered to the women,Nickell said. For example, one man asks a passing woman, “How do you likeyour eggs? Scrambled, over easy, or fertilized?”

Glismann said becausehe and Gudgel did not get a copy of the script until Feb. 7, they were forced tonotify Keahey on Feb. 8, the day of the performance. They told Keahey he had tochange certain lines if he wanted his play performed.

“The timing wasnot what any administrator would want, but it was all that we had to workwith,” Glismann said.

According to Glismann, Keahey said he did nothave time to alter the language and would rather not change the play. Nickellsaid the cast and crew of “Catcalls” read aloud a statementprotesting censorship in place of the play.

“We have a newsuperintendent — that’s primarily what happened,” Nickellsaid. “[The superintendent] wasn’t being an evil person. He cameinto our district without knowing what the community standards are … we tendto be a very liberal community here in Yellow Springs.”

Nickell saidthe dialogue was “definitely suggestive,” and she understands whythe superintendent censored it. But the play was well written and would havebeen allowed in past years, she said.

“The community is going to have abig discussion about this,” Nickell said. I don’t know when, but Iassume soon … Maybe we need to sit down and say what is acceptable and what isnot.”

Glismann said one other performance on Friday had somequestionable material, and he asked the play director to alter the play forSaturday’s show.

“Just this morning I have said to theprincipal that I would be more than willing to meet with the writer and all thekids who had any involvement in any of the plays,” Glismann said.

From now on, Glismann said administration would be “morediligent” in reviewing plays prior to performance.

Nickell said therehas been some talk of separating “One-Acts” from the school, makingit a private fundraiser so the administration cannot censor the plays.

“If we’re able to teach Romeo and Juliet to freshmen,then there shouldn’t be any objection to the content in [Keahey’s]play,” she said.