Itâ??s a play that has raised awareness of hate crimes. The Laramie Project is about the reaction to the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student from Laramie, WY.
This play has been performed in high schools all over the U.S. but it wonâ??t be done at Ottumwa High School anytime soon.
OHS Principal Mark Hanson denied the play from being performed through the schoolâ??s drama department.
We reached out to Principal Hanson but he did not want to go on camera but he said â??the play is too adult for a high school production but it does preach a great message.â??
Ottumwa Community Schoolâ??s Superintendent Davis Eidahl says he fully supports Principal Hansonâ??s decision.
â??We really want the focus of our Ottumwa High School productions to be for the entire family,â?? said Eidahl.
â??I remember growing up that a lot of the plays I saw as a child, that either the Ottumwa Community Players or the Ottumwa High School put on were of maybe a little bit of a higher caliber or adult onset. A Midsummerâ??s Night Dream might not be something that a 5 year-old or 6 year-old would be able to comprehend, not that it would be an inappropriate play, but a lot of the content is on a little bit more of an adult level which is too me a to be expected at a high school production,â?? said Kate Walz, Ottumwa resident.
In a state where gay marriage is legal, the word â??familyâ?? is not limited to a man and a woman. The issue of gay rights is now more than ever in the spotlight, hence the controversy surrounding Principal Hansonâ??s decision to not allow the play.
Eidahl said he wanted the high school productions to be family oriented. We asked him what he would say to those families that are made up of two moms or two dads and this is how he responded:
â??Well again, they're going to have, which these are families. And again that's part of respecting the individual differences is respecting the makeup of a family which we welcome all. And those are the things we teach within our system, the respect, the compassion of all those differences. Theyâ??re still going to have young children and what Iâ??m saying is would this play be appropriate to bring your 6 or 7 or 8 year-old student, maybe not because they can't comprehend the discussion that would take place following this as well as a high school student would,â?? said Eidahl.
â??It's ok to not bring them to one play. I know the Ottumwa Community Players Playhouse is doing the Little Mermaid soon,â?? said Walz.
â??Honestly Iâ??m surprised that we're not able to perform this at the high school because I think this would be a great opportunity to have some discussions that are sometimes kept quiet in schools, in our community, and I think that by having this play be performed, it would be great discussions and in the classroom for teachers with their students and its kind of one of those hidden things that no one wants to talk about and we really need to bring that out in the open rather than hiding it all the time,â?? said Stephanie Dostal.
We spoke to Ottumwa High Schoolâ??s Theatre Director Natalie Saunders who said, â??While I am disappointed that the show will not be done at the school, it is still going to be produced independently and the show will be at Bridge View in October.â??
So you be the judge, should the decision to not perform The Laramie Project be based upon that of a 6-year-old?
The Matthew Shepherd Foundation posted a statement about Ottumwa High School's decision on its Facebook page.