In the romantic comedy play Almost, Maine, one of the nine vignettes features two men discussing their negative experiences with dating girls and realizing that they love each other by comically falling — literally physically falling — on the stage. Though the scene fades on the gag before the men can even reach each other, Maiden High School in North Carolina feels that the play is too controversial, canceling a pending production by the Main Street Players, the students’ acclaimed theatre and performing arts troupe.
WSOC reports that according to students, “some parents and area churches complained” about the play’s inclusion of a same-sex couple. Principal Rob Bliss released a statement describing the play as having “sexually-explicit overtones and multiple sexual innuendos that are not aligned with our mission and educational objectives.”
Bliss also claimed that “no final decision has been made regarding whether and what drama performances are to be presented this fall,” but the students tell a different story. An alumnus who posted about the controversy on reddit connected ThinkProgress with Conner Baker, a junior at Maiden High School and the student director for the Main Street Players. According to Baker, not only had the club gotten approval for the play, but they’d already paid for it too.
Baker told ThinkProgress that the Players had sought approval for Almost, Maine earlier in the school year, receiving it from both Principal Bliss and Catawba County Schools Superintendent Dan Brigman. Brigman and Bliss stipulated, however, that every student wishing to audition or assist with the production must receive parental permission to do so. The club then spent over $300 to reserve the rights and rent the scripts for the show, and followed through on this requirement. Only one student was prevented from auditioning by the permission-slip process. Baker said that the show had already been cast and was beginning rehearsals when the production was canceled last Thursday. She did not personally know who in the community objected to the play’s content.
ThinkProgress reached out to Bliss for clarification about this conflicting account of events, but did not receive a response. An online petition started by students and alumni to allow the show has already garnered over 1,000 signatures.
In 2010, Almost, Maine was listed as the most-produced play in North American high schools. In fact, numerous clips of the “They Fell” vignette as performed in high schools across the country can easily be found on YouTube. Here’s one such recording:
The controversy at Maiden High School is eerily similar to a story that played out this summer at South Williamsport High School in Pennsylvania. There, school officials canceled a production of Monty Python’s Spamalot, claiming its inclusion of a same-sex wedding was inappropriate but explaining to the press that it had never actually been approved in the first place. Emails later revealed that not only had it been approved, but the principal had even signed the check reserving the rights for the production.
Incidentally, same-sex marriage became legal in North Carolina last week.