The Playgoer: CT HS Anti-War Play has legs

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Friday, June 15, 2007

CT HS Anti-War Play has legs

Remember back in March the scared Connecticut High School principle who banned his students from performing their own protest play against the Iraq war? (Cause that's such a minority fringe wacko opinion, right?)...Well the kids are just fine, and have been taking their show on a veritable downtown tour of some fancy venues, including the Vineyard and the Public.

Details here, courtesy of NYT metro section.

Encouraging that downtown theatre came through this time.

After an article about the ban appeared in The New York Times, “the whole New York theater community called,” [drama teacher] Dickinson said.
Then again, it's easier when it's not really a controversial position anymore.

Then then again, does this mean the only play about Iraq on the boards now is by some teenagers?


Adam Szymkowicz said...

It might be. I'm trying to get my 60 min Iraq play up. Maybe I should have started with the Public and The Vineyard. Looking forward to meeting you tonight!

Stephen R. said...

"And a little child shall lead them."

Anonymous said...

I saw the play tonight -- not just heartening that it's teenagers exploring a pressing issue that is otherwise ignored in their school and -- even better -- that they think theater is a good place for exploring it. It's also a pretty good piece of theater.


The censorship was bad enough. Now, Bonnie Dickinson, the drama teacher who developed and directed the play with the kids in an acting class, is in serious jeopardy of being suspended from her job on the grounds of fomenting an artwork that lacks "balance". (Familiar bugaboo on this blog.) It will set a seriously damaging precedent if she's reprimanded or punished, said the first-amendment lawyer Martin Garbus in a discussion after the performance.

Letters supporting Dickinson and the project can be sent to: Timothy Canty, Principal, Wilton High School, 395 Danbury Road, Wilton, Connecticut 06897.

If you need to learn more about the play and the school's squelching of it, see: If you are a reader of this blog, you don't need to do any backgroud homework on the wider issue of cancelling plays for their lack of "balance."

Not that this is a particularly anti-war play, though. It's just honest about the hell that war always is, regardless of one's pov on the merits of its justifications. There's no discussion whatsoever of the non-existent WMDs, etc. in this verbatim collage of letters, emails, and diary entries from soldiers. Some express thorough commitment to the cause; some reveal doubt or confusion; one describes his split-second decision to shoot a woman who could have been a suicide bomber but turns out to have been harmless; another, back from the war, tells about his PTSD; all of them miss their moms. And so on. There's no rhetoric -- other than a pro-military rap song -- and no discussion of policy.

Some service members (some from Iraqi Vets against the War) were in the house and praised the students for telling the truth about the situation on the ground for their courage in persevering. (The kids were subjected to lots of harrassment by fellow students. Common slur: "theater fag.")

Sure, I over-identified, as anyone who was stage-struck in high school would have done. Still, I have to say, it was one of the most moving evenings I have experienced in the theater in a good while.
One kid in the cast said during the discussion that the experience convinced him that he could make theater that left people thinking and talking long after the houselights came up. And his teacher is the one who might lose her job? What a sad commentary on education system. And on our theater.

Jeff Massie said...

I strongly suggest that any comments or letters to Tim Canty should also be sent to the entire Board of Education, and possibly the local media as well.

Contact information can be found on my VIC website.

Given the publicity this has generated and the obsessive secrecy of the administrators involved, it's hard to tell how much trouble Dickinson may be in. But public support can't hurt.