Hereford High officials let `violent' show go on -- once

Students to perform edited version of play for invitees

April 30, 1999|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

Just days after Hereford High School administrators canceled all performances of a student production they said was violent and vulgar, they decided to let the 40 students in "Musical Comedy Murders of 1940" present an edited version of the show to an invited audience tonight.

But the students aren't happy with the compromise. They say the show will lose money because it will run only one night instead of three. They also say the editing changes are not fair and that the administration's response to the excerpt they saw was inappropriate.

The disagreement began Tuesday when the students at the Baltimore County school presented 12 minutes of the comedy by playwright John Bishop during lunch to draw audiences to their production. The show had been scheduled to run from last night through tomorrow. After acting Principal Robert Hamilton watched the three scenes, he decided to cancel the shows.

Hamilton said one scene, involving a gunfight, was too violent and that another suggested rape.

"Somebody didn't look at how this could be perceived by other people," Hamilton said. "We shouldn't make violence commonplace or display it on stage."

Hamilton said the April 20 killings in Littleton, Colo., made it all the more important to send a message to the students. "This would not have been acceptable at any time, [but] in light of what happened recently, we should be as respectful as possible," he said.

The students -- who spent six weeks rehearsing the 90-minute production -- said the musical comedy was just that, and that other high schools in Maryland have performed the play.

"[Hamilton] seemed like he didn't want to offend people," said director Jennifer Johnson, 18. "I just don't see what is offensive."

By the next morning, several parents had talked to Hamilton, saying that if administrators objected to the show's content, they should have said something earlier.

"What are they going to do next, go through the library and take out any book with guns, violence, sex or whatever?" asked John Johnson, Jennifer's father. "What we've done is damage them [the students] more than if the play was just put on."

Wednesday afternoon, school officials agreed to attend yesterday's dress rehearsal, and with editing done to certain scenes to allow the students to present the show for their friends and family for $3 admission.

Hereford High administrators agreed to do things differently next year. "We will be reviewing our policy [on how plays are chosen]," Hamilton said.

Pub Date: 4/30/99

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