CMU School of Drama

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

When A Censored Play Was Already In Violation of Copyright

Arts Integrity Initiative: The shutting down of a high school play at East Newton High School in Granby, Missouri last week may have set a new low in bad timing for such incidents. The show was not canceled after casting, during rehearsals, just prior to opening night or following the first performance. No, at East Newton the show was canceled roughly 10 minutes into the second act on its first night. Why? Because two parents, watching the show, demanded that their child be pulled off the stage.


Rebecca Meckler said...

What a crazy situation! I have no idea what I would have done if a parent pull their kid off stage in the middle of a performance, and that before you factor in the copyright infringement. As the article points out, there is no one person there is no one person to blame for this situation, many people were wrong. There are two very serious issues here and it’s a shame that these problems prevented the students from performing. The issues are copyright infringements and censorship in high school arts. As for the copyright infringement, I’m baffled that teachers thought it would be okay to write and produce this work without permission. In my high school there was a lot of time devoted to properly citing sources and attributing credit where it is due. For a school to set such a poor example for their students is terrible. Even a quick google check should be able to inform them and the teacher who had previously been acquiring the rights should have known that. Though I know that copyright violations, especially in high school theater is very common to cut cost, it's still is not okay and should be discouraged. Hopefull other high schools that have previously not bought the rights to shows will see this and understand what they need to do to obtain the rights to a show for the future.

Simone Schneeberg said...

This is a very odd situation. It's easy to be sympathetic with the kids who didn't get to put up their show because they put a lot of time and effort into the production and it now seems all for nought. However, it's not easy to make a case against censorship here. Putting aside, for the moment, the fact that it was copyrighted material (a whole other issue within itself), it is still hard to fight for the show to go back up as one against censorship. The Breakfast Club, while a great show and an perspective movie that shows that there is more to each high school stereotype, it offers nothing incredibly insightful that might be beneficial for people today to think about (like Ragtime does for example). I think what happened here was a series of unfortunate miscommunications that don't entirely have anything to do with the fight for or against censorship. Parents should read what they're asked to sign and teachers should be more clear when writing permission slips and maybe this wouldn't have happened.

Sarah Boyle said...

At my high school, all scripts had to be approved by administration before casting could begin. Particularly knowing that the drama teacher was planning an “adaptation” of The Breakfast Club, the principal should have put together earlier that there might be some content that some audience member would find to be inappropriate or offensive and have checked the script earlier than a dress rehearsal. And while I agree with the author that this show situation shouldn’t mean an end to the drama club, it should definitely be an end to the performance. And there should probably be penalties for the teachers involved in this too. Not for the content, but for the copyright issue. Less illegal, as the teacher described it, is still illegal and is a terrible example for the students. Speaking of terrible examples, that parent who pulled their teenager out of the performance in the second act. Seriously? Not before the show, or intermission, or after the first show? You signed the permission slip, they have presumably been practicing for weeks. They are a teenager and know what they are saying. Walk out of the theater if the content is offensive to you but don’t take the actor with you.

Julian Goldman said...

When I first read the description the parent posted, I was immediately wondering what on earth the play was after they made it sound so scandalous. When I saw it was The Breakfast Club, at first I was a bit amused, but I quickly realized that their description isn’t exactly inaccurate. Despite the fact that we as a society have deemed it okay, The Breakfast Club does contain quite a lot of cursing, drug use, and sexually explicit language, which makes sense given it is rated R (which now makes me wonder why I watched it in class when I was a sophomore in high school). Honestly, I think the theater teacher should’ve been more concerned about people potentially feeling like The Breakfast Club is too explicit for high schoolers than about the copyright violation. While it is a copyright violation, no one would’ve found out, and if they had, I doubt anyone would’ve cared. Given the content of The Breakfast Club, I think parents being upset about it was near inevitable.

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