Schools' Dilemma: Are Plays to Be or Not to Be?

By Waller, C. L. | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), January 24, 1996 | Go to article overview

Schools' Dilemma: Are Plays to Be or Not to Be?


Waller, C. L., Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: C. L. Waller Daily Herald Staff Writer

Scott Holland had a humbling experience during last year's production of "Twelfth Night" at Libertyville High School.

Several members of the audience - which is typically made up of community members - left the ambitious Shakespeare play after the first act, shocking the cast and crew.

Still, "Those who stayed gave us a standing ovation," the junior said.

Holland says he learned more than acting while performing the play; it gave him a unique perspective on Shakespeare's "The Tempest," which he studied this year.

"Even though a play might not be appreciated by the audience, it still provides educational value," Holland said.

Reaching a balance between education and audience appreciation is an ongoing battle for high school theater.

This week, Libertyville High School officials and students debated the decision to drop the spring production of "Dark of the Moon," by Howard Richardson and William Berney. School officials said they decided to drop the play - written in the 1940s, about a young warlock who marries a human - because it wouldn't have great audience appeal and because it would have been the third "dark" play in a row.

"Dark of the Moon" was performed two years ago at an all-state high school theater festival.

Drama students protested that the decision to cancel the play was no less than censorship. And while the play will stay canceled - a replacement is not yet named - the school will create a review committee of students, faculty and community members to offer opinions to the fine arts department about what plays the school will do.

Fine arts department head Dan Patterson, who made the decision, said "Dark of the Moon" would be a poor follow-up to the lineup of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," performed in the fall, and "Dracula," coming this winter.

Patterson said he was questioning whether to do "Dark of the Moon" even before some community members complained to school officials about the play's content (it contains a rape scene).

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