WILTON, Conn., March 22 — Student productions at Wilton High School range from splashy musicals like last year’s “West Side Story,” performed in the state-of-the-art, $10 million auditorium, to weightier works like Arthur Miller’s “Crucible,” on stage last fall in the school’s smaller theater.
For the spring semester, students in the advanced theater class took on a bigger challenge: creating an original play about the war in Iraq. They compiled reflections of soldiers and others involved, including a heartbreaking letter from a 2005 Wilton High graduate killed in Iraq last September at age 19, and quickly found their largely sheltered lives somewhat transformed.
“In Wilton, most kids only care about Britney Spears shaving her head or Tyra Banks gaining weight,” said Devon Fontaine, 16, a cast member. “What we wanted was to show kids what was going on overseas.”
But even as 15 student actors were polishing the script and perfecting their accents for a planned April performance, the school principal last week canceled the play, titled “Voices in Conflict,” citing questions of political balance and context.
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In response to concerns that the script was too antiwar, Ms. Dickinson reworked it with the help of an English teacher. The revised version is more reflective and less angry, omitting graphic descriptions of killing, crude language and some things that reflect poorly on the Bush administration, like a comparison of how long it took various countries to get their troops bulletproof vests. A critical reference to Donald H. Rumsfeld, the former defense secretary, was cut, along with a line from Cpl. Sean Huze saying of soldiers: “Your purpose is to kill.”
Seven characters were added, including Maj. Tammy Duckworth of the National Guard, a helicopter pilot who lost both legs and returned from the war to run for Congress last fall. The second version gives First Lt. Melissa Stockwell, who lost her left leg from the knee down, a new closing line: “But I’d go back. I wouldn’t want to go back, but I would go.”
On March 13, Mr. Canty met with the class. He told us “no matter what we do, it’s not happening,” said one of the students, Erin Clancy. That night, on a Facebook chat group called “Support the Troops in Iraq,” a poster named GabriellaAF, who several students said was their classmate Gabby, posted a celebratory note saying, “We got the show canceled!!” (Reached by telephone, Gabby’s mother, Barbara Alessi, said she had no knowledge of the play or her daughter’s involvement in it.) In classrooms, teenage centers and at dinner tables around town, the drama students entertained the idea of staging the show at a local church, or perhaps al fresco just outside the school grounds. One possibility was Wilton Presbyterian Church. . . .
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Lessons in Repression at Wilton High School
Here is the perfect test case to re-establish the fact that students do not leave their First Amendent rights at the schoolhouse door. This could, and should be, another Island Tree case if school officials persist in censoring this play: