The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and not of The Davis Clipper.
I began the new year discovering that I, like most of you, am a prurient, nasty individual, the kind decent mothers and fathers warn their children about. In fact, if the Jordan School District officials are correct, I should not be allowed within 50 feet of a school playground.
And once again, Utah is being showcased to the nation as the butt of jokes.
It all revolves around a harmless school play and a clueless public relations official. For more than three months, students in the suburb of Herriman in Salt Lake County have been rehearsing for the high school production of “All Shook Up”, a play based on William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” and including such racy musical numbers as the title track, “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Love Me Tender”.
It’s a common production for Utah high schools and community theaters, and for 99.9 percent of Utahns, the play is as filthy as a bar of Dove soap. But in the Jordan School District, one person complained, supposedly concerned about the plot line where a girl dresses up as a boy (those darn cross-dressers!) and, in the best Elvis lip-curling tradition, swivels a hip.
Upon receiving such a complaint, a normal school official would say something like “Thank you for your input; you’re not required to attend the show.” But not the Jordan School District. Instead, officials cancelled the show (later relenting when the company holding the play rights agreed to have a scene edited).
The school district has shown cowardice before. Last year an Eagle Forum member complained about a school play written by a Catholic nun. However, I cannot blame the Eagle Forum; the group only has the power ceded to it by a school district with little backbone.
That brings us to the silly statement expressed by the school district spokesperson. Sandy Riesgraf is an educated person, a former broadcast professional, who should know better than to say “We want our drama to be a great experience, not just for our students, but also for the theater-goers. We don’t want to offend anyone.”
Sorry Sandy, but it’s generally impossible to perform something that doesn’t offend at least one person. In fact, the function of art (and education) is to make people think, not just allowing them to tap their toes. You’ll find people who find offensive themes in everything from the Old Testament to Disney movies.
To prove that I am such a naughty boy, in the past two weeks I’ve watched the movie “Lincoln” (with graphic depiction of death and violence and saw the popular Utah favorite “Les Miserables” (containing scenes of prostitution and socialistic revolution). What’s worse, just last night I was singing along to a traditional folk song (“Jackaroe”) telling the story of a woman who dresses as a man to join the army.
If Sandy Riesgraf is correct, we should make sure our students don’t read “To Kill a Mockingbird” (sexual assault), hear “Blowing in the Wind” (liberal politics) or visit any art museum. Honestly, nothing is more offensive to me than the kneejerk reaction of a spineless school district.