The show will go on

By Stephen Milligan - the walton tribune

Walnut Grove High School drama students Lillyonna Duckworth, Eryn Savage, Natalie Helms, Jazmyne Black, Ava Brooks, Alysia Tolar Gabby and Shannon Hayes rehearsh their production of ‘Mean Girls.’ The upcoming performance has caused a level of controversy at the school but its performance is set to go on. Special to The Tribune

WGHS musical temporary cancelled after complaint

WALNUT GROVE, GA (Feb. 20, 2023) At Walnut Grove High School, the show will go on, but not without a few bumps in the road along the way.

The WGHS drama department’s scheduled production of “Mean Girls: The Musical” was temporarily
canceled last week after complaints over content in the Broadway production arose, only to be allowed
back onto the calendar after school administrators and the drama department came to an agreement on how to address those complaints.

The brief cancellation, which lasted roughly 24 hours, drew complaints from across the school and community. A petition was created to protest the cancellation and gathered 1,667 signatures before the petition was closed after the show was allowed to go back into production.

The administration did not explain what particular portions of the play were objected to, using general
terms to explain the complaint.

Principal Lindsey Allen issued a letter to the community about the cancellation.

“Recently, it was brought to my attention that while the script for this play was adapted for high schools, it does have strong sexual undertones and innuendos and questionable language,” Allen said.

“After reviewing the full script, our administrative team and drama production team did not feel the play as written was appropriate for our students or community.”

This explanation didn’t pass muster with many of the supporters of the drama department, which has been working on the show since November and only now saw it canceled in February.

“Simply put, if there was an issue with the production, it should have been addressed months
ago,” Ryan Baker said on signing the petition. “Making this kind of decision so close to the performance demonstrates to me that either no one in admin checked the script, or (their) guidelines change based on the opinions of one or two parents. Either way, the children should not be the ones paying the price for that oversight.”

In fact, Walton County School District officials confirmed administrators are not generally involved in the play approval process, which is primarily handled by the drama teacher. However, drama teacher Sunny Vidrine, who selected “Mean Girls” as the spring musical, left WGHS in January for a new job at Georgia State College and a substitute teacher has been handling rehearsals ever since.

At some point in that time gap, a “community member” as referenced in the petition objected to some part of the play, leading to its temporary cancellation. This late cancellation, only a month from the debut, based on the issues of potentially only one parent drew a lot of ire from drama supporters, such as petition signer K. Anderson.

“Just because one little Karen complained doesn’t mean it should be cancelled,” Anderson said. “I’ve seen how hard these students have worked for this. Save the musical!”

Allen, however, said even the revised musical, with the various content changes to take out objectionable material, felt a bit too risqué for the local community.

“At the time, we were told that no additional changes could be made as a result of the licensing
agreement and that further changes without approval may result in monetary penalties and potential revocation of access to scripts in the future,” Allen said. “Based on this information, we made the difficult decision to cancel the play and move in a different direction.”

The shift back into production came as Allen and drama supporters worked to find new compromises.

“Following our decision, we were in- formed that the school could revise the script and submit the proposed changes to the production company for approval,” Allen said.

“Former drama teacher Sunny Vidrine agreed to work with Mrs. Duffield to further revise the script and submit it to the outside production company for approval. While we cannot guarantee that the script will be approved, we are going to move forward with rehearsing the new script in hopes that the company will approve the changes and the production will resume on schedule.”

Assuming the additional changes, which have not been publicly disclosed, are approved, WGHS will be among the first high schools in the country to perform “Mean Girls,” which has just been made available for licensing by high schools.

Shows are currently slated for March 16, 17 and 18 at 7 p.m. and March 18 at 2 p.m.

Tickets will be available for purchase on GoFan. Allen said he hopes the brief production hiatus will only prove to make the show better suited for the WGHS community.

“We know that our students have worked hard rehearsing for our spring production and want them to be able to perform a revised version of the script,” Allen said. “We fully support our theater program and must ensure that the content is appropriate for all.”

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply