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Friday, May 15, 2009

A Letter to the Editor*

Posted by Alison Hallett on Fri, May 15, 2009 at 2:10 PM

*of the La Grande Observer

La Grande High School's controversial production of Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile opens tomorrow at Eastern Oregon University—the drama program had to find a new venue for the show after the LHS school board voted to cancel the production based on concerns about its "adult content." (You may have heard the "Think Out Loud" about the controversy, which featured the production's remarkably articulate, reasonable, and generally wonderful-seeming director, Kevin Cahill. My high school drama teacher, the legendary Stephen Clark, was also all of those things—big ups to drama teachers right here.)

High-schooler Ritchie Scott, who performs in the play, forwarded me a letter that he also sent to the La Grande Observer, entitled "An Angry Letter to an Ignorant Town." It's quite well-written. I'll post it after the jump.

To the Editor:

I will be playing Picasso in the upcoming production of the play at EOU, thanks to the EOU Student Democrats. As a senior at LHS, I am tired of reading arguments written by parents or community members regarding the cancellation of Picasso at the Lapin Agile, and none by students. If you haven’t realized, the banning of this play directly affects the students at the high school, not you. My opinion does not reflect that of the rest of the cast, Mr. Cahill, or anyone else at the high school. It is my own and I feel it is time it is heard.

Since the first day I heard that someone was trying to tell me what I couldn't perform at my own high school, I have been nothing but irate. Since the day the community decided to rise up in some sort of a “morality crusade” and try to tell me what is appropriate for me to say, I have been angry. And since the day of the appeal to the school board, I have been disheartened. I have finally lost faith in this community. The fact that a “certain group” of people who either have no connections to the school whatsoever or haven't even read the play were able to impose their “higher standards” on my art sickens me. The fact that our community is so closed-minded and afraid—of what, I truly have no idea—that they can censor me and tell me that I can't perform a part that I love, a part that has honestly made me reflect upon myself, a part that I can relate to—depresses me. I do not see this play as dirty, immoral, or sinful. I see it as a comedy, something to be laughed at and enjoyed. It has challenged me to act in ways I never have before, and not by excessively drinking, cursing the Lord, or objectifying women, but rather by challenging my skills as an actor.

In reality, if the “standards” that were applied to the play were applied to everything else in school, we would have no Internet, no Shakespeare, and probably no Bible. If you really want to protect us from the real world, I suggest investing in earmuffs, blindfolds, and mouth gags. Better yet, home school your kids so I won't have to dumb myself down to be sure not to offend anyone by thinking for myself.

Shame on you La Grande, you have no idea what is in my best interest, you probably have no idea who I am, but all I have to say to you is—Keep your religious and conservative beliefs out of my school and out of my mind. And for those of you who support art and free expression, see you at the show!

Richard Scott

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