The show must not go on

School drama: Denial of `Swing Kids' in Carroll reminds of need for principals to review selections early.

May 18, 1999

THE CURTAIN fell on the musical production "Swing Kids" at North Carroll High School before it was ever raised. Blame Mickey Mouse. Student thespians, dancers and musicians are crestfallen, and so are their families.

The play was adapted from a 1993 Walt Disney Co. film about German teen-agers who rebelled against the Nazi regime by devotion to American-British jitterbug music. But Disney this month denied permission for the school to use the name or characters of the film. It suggested changes, but the school play director said there was not enough time.

Disney comes off as the villain, but it's another example of how school plays can fall into trouble if they are not carefully reviewed by school principals before beginning production. That includes copyright, language, age-appropriate themes and safety, among other things. It's a public school production, and top officials must take responsibility; their decisions may, of course, be appealed.

Last month, Hereford High School in Baltimore County had its student musical strongly edited and restricted to a single performance. The principal objected to scenes of violence and implicit rape, which he only saw days before the scheduled opening.

The North Carroll and Hereford performers spent months in rehearsal. Loss of that considerable invested time adds to the disappointment.

A few years ago, a Harford County middle school comedy was nearly canceled by school officials because one character used profanity. The drama teachers protested, but lines were edited close to opening night. The show went on, with unnoticed impact on the dramatic performance.

The message should be clear: Administrators must scrutinize school productions early on instead of waiting until the last minute. That's a dramatic conclusion no one wants to see.

Pub Date: 5/18/99

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