School officials nix controversial play

School officials nix controversial play

By Ruthann Carr, correspondent

One day after a Facebook message critical of a scheduled Fluvanna County High School production of The Excuser was posted, school officials cancelled the show.

Carolyn Edwards Ley posted this message on Thursday (Oct. 25): “My Fluvanna County, Va., friends: Do you think our school system should be used to push a political agenda?”

Along with the question was a poster of The Excuser stating it was being performed at the high school Nov. 1.

Here is a synopsis of the play found on the website

“Welcome to America’s hottest new reality show – The Excuser! Everybody knows that there’s an art to a good excuse, and nobody knows that better than the billionaire – or maybe that’s millionaire? – Harold (or Maude) Clump. Clump, who has never met a day with good hair and so has hair assistants on constant standby, holds The Excuser competition in a storage room – no, boardroom, it’s a boardroom! – of the Clump Tower (and, sure, you can call three stories a tower). Clump prizes a good excuse because that’s how fortunes are made. But when Clump hears something that doesn’t fly, it’s time to send the competitor home with the trademark (yes, the trademark papers are in the mail!) phrase “That’s no excuse!” The contestants are a mixed bag to be sure. There are the cheerleader identical twins who have the odd distinction of not really looking alike. There’s the kid who always seems to have his head in the clouds and the other kid who can’t stop talking. But what hope could the exchange student have, especially since nobody can understand a word he (or is it she?) says or even what country the student is from? Whatever the results, The Excuser is sure to bring home the laughs to your audiences, but if not, surely there’s a very good reason – or excuse.”

Several commenters to Ley’s Facebook post (which she took down Thursday evening) stated they felt it was a thinly disguised dig at President Donald Trump and was too political for a public school.

In an email, Superintendent Chuck Winkler stated: “Ms. Ley’s social media posts or any associated posts had nothing to do with the decision. We began having discussions after the potential for political controversy started coming to the forefront and the discovery there were other issues (copyright and royalties/licensing) and Virginia High School League rules that may place us in additional jeopardy. Therefore, we decided to pull the production. I can only say there were potential violations that caused us to take action.”

Ley said she took down the post when some comments took on a tone with which she was uncomfortable.

“I deleted the post when some of the people became rude and insulting and I felt it was no longer a productive conversation,” Ley said. “I doubt that my one post, which was seen by about 25 to 30 people, had any effect on outcome, but I hope it did contribute to the overall discussion in our community.”

Ley said the reason she posted the comment originally was because some friends brought it to her attention:

“I posted the information to start an important conversation about whether our community accepts politics in our schools. Some local families were feeling that a person in authority was abusing their power and pushing a certain ideology into the classroom. From comments on the post as well as private messages and calls I received, people did express that they agreed – politics do not belong in the schools. A few people disagreed and attempted to minimize how the subject matter of the play could be insulting to some people. My personal opinion is that…it was a thinly veiled poke at the current president. I am saddened at the thought that possibly some children felt singled out and intimidated due to their (or their family’s) support of the president and that they might not want to mock him. I also have to question what the lesson here to the kids would be regarding respecting the office of president.”

Kerry Murphy-Hammond has a daughter at the high school who is involved in the theater department. She did not have a part in this play.

“I understand legal issues with the play,” Murphy-Hammond said. “However, having read the play, it’s not political in nature. I think it’s wrong for people to jump to conclusions that everything is politically motivated. It is a piece written in 2012.”

She said she hopes people will look at the bigger picture: the hard-working faculty and students involved in school plays.

“We have an amazing theater department at FCHS, and no matter what play they end up doing, we can be sure it will great,” she said.

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