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Rolly: The show will go on, but so does the paranoia

Published January 3, 2013 10:22 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The atmosphere created by the moral watchdog group the Eagle Forum last spring, when it blasted a high school play two months after it was performed, has once again cast a pall over public education's attempts to encourage creativity among its students.

Jordan School District's decision this week to cancel Herriman High's production of "All Shook Up" was the result of the Eagle Forum's meddling in another Jordan district play last school year and the cowardice of some elected officials afraid of offending the powerful lobbying organization.

Herriman High won approval in August to perform "All Shook Up," loosely based on Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" and featuring Elvis Presley songs.

But when a constituent complained about the lyrics in one song and some "suggestive" content in the play, the district called off the show, noting that its policy has changed since the play was approved.

I would call Jordan's abrupt cancellation a reaction to the trauma it went through with the Eagle Forum last spring.

On Thursday, after news of the yanked show made national headlines, Jordan officials obtained permission from the play's publisher to tweak the script and remove the one song that offended the complainant — in contrast to the vast majority of parents and patrons who found nothing objectionable about it.

As a result, the play will be performed in February, which is good news for the student actors, set designers, their parents and teachers who have been working on the production since late August, only to have it interrupted by a late December complaint.

There is no evidence that this complainant was a member of or speaking for the Eagle Forum. But I blame that meddling lobbyist organization — and its threats of political extinction to get its way in the Legislature — for fomenting this Salem, Mass., type of environment in the first place.

Last spring, the Eagle Forum's operatives issued a news release blasting Bingham High's production of "Dead Man Walking," even though they hadn't seen the play and the statement was issued two months after the performance.

Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka told me at the time that the play contained obscene language, violence, bigotry, political bias and "inappropriate biblical teachings," labeling it as anti-death-penalty propaganda.

But she didn't know what was actually performed because the school had secured permission from the play's publisher to edit the script to make it more acceptable for a student production. She also didn't know that school officials had worked with parents, students and teachers to minimize any offense the play might awaken while maintaining the story's integrity.

Unfortunately, because of the Eagle Forum's history of intimidating politicians, some Jordan School Board members and at least one legislator did not back the district and called for an apology to the community — even though most community members felt no need for an apology.

But it was that betrayal by elected politicians that may have left the district little choice when it canceled "All Shook Up" — albeit briefly. Good for the district for finding a way to save the production and quiet the one sanctimonious interloper who took it upon himself or herself to decide for everybody else what is good for them.







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