South Williamsport Jr/Sr High School in northern Pennsylvania was planning to stage a production of Monty Python’s Spamalot next spring, but the Tony-winning musical has now been canceled after parents complained about its content — in particular, a same-sex wedding. According to the school, such content is inappropriate.
Dawn Burch, director of the school’s drama department, told WNEP news that Principal Jesse Smith wrote an email to her informing her that homosexuality does not exist in a conservative community such as South Williamsport. Smith did not respond to a ThinkProgress inquiry regarding these specific comments.
Instead, Superintendent Mark Stamm responded to ThinkProgress with a statement explaining that since the drama program includes students from grades 7–12, “We want our performances to be appropriate for the student performers and audiences so that anyone participating or watching can enjoy all aspects of the show.”
Not only did students at the school confirm to WNEP that they know of openly gay students, but neighboring Williamsport school district has had a gay-straight alliance for students since 2008. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Pennsylvania since a federal court ruling in May.
In the show, based on the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the knight Lancelot is outed as gay in a wild disco number after he saves an effeminate prince from his tyrannical father. The two marry in the final scene that wraps up all of the characters’ story lines.
Many high schools across the country have mounted productions of Spamalot. The company that licenses the rights for the show includes a resource specifically for school productions that includes suggestions about how to adjust the script to remove language that might be inappropriate. It provides no guidance for removing the same-sex wedding.
Past performances by the South Williamsport Jr/Sr High School Drama Department include Pippin, in which the main character stabs his own father to become king, Romeo and Juliet, in which the protagonists commit suicide at the end, and Urinetown, a satirical comedy in which people are punished with death if they refuse to pay to use the toilet.
WNEP has updated its story to clarify that Principal Smith’s email did not, in fact, contain the comments suggesting that homosexuality did not exist in South Williamsport and that the original report was in error. ThinkProgress’s inquiry to the school district was sent directly to Principal Smith and requested clarification about the comments in question, specifically: “Can you confirm whether you sent an email that says as much and whether you, in fact, believe it to be true?” Superintendent Stamm provided the district’s only response, which did not address Smith’s alleged comments whatsoever. According to a follow-up report at PennLive, school board President John J. Engel Jr. claimed the cancellation of the musical had nothing do with homosexuality, but because the show was otherwise “not appropriate.”