South Williamsport Cancels 2015 Production of Spamalot;
Principal Claims Homosexuality Does Not Exist in Their Town*
*UPDATE – July 3, 2014
WNEP has redacted part of their story in which Principal Smith cited “homosexuality” as the main reason for his decision, and that he referenced that no LGBTQ people exist in South Williamsport. These were apparently NOT part of the email. The district administration has remained silent as of now in speaking out in support of LGBTQ students going forward, or apologizing for the miscommunication.
South Williamsport Junior/Senior High School in central Lycoming County announced on Tuesday that they would cancel an upcoming production of Spamalot, a popular musical comedy which continues its run on Broadway and recently finished a two year revival at London’s West End. While the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition understands that this show contains many adult themes which may be too lewd for a high school audience, the coalition is outraged by the process by which the show was cancelled.
The South Williamsport Area High School principal, Jesse Smith, wrote in an email that they cancelled the show explicitly due to the “homosexual themes.” According to Dawn Burch, the Director of the School’s Drama Department, the email from Principal Smith explained that homosexuality isn’t something that happens in conservative South Williamsport.
The drama department was planning on editing the musical’s adult content to be appropriate for a wider age range. Burch is now being forced to select another show for their spring 2015 performance. The Superintendent claimed the decision was made to avoid controversy.
While canceling the musical due to the sexual content may be an appropriate decision, stating that there is not an LGBT presence in the community is unacceptable and simply not true. The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition’s Assistant Convener, Dan Warner, is a 2011 graduate of South Williamsport Area High School. “As a South Williamsport alumnus who is gay, I am sincerely disappointed by the administration’s recent decision. South Williamsport High School was an important place for me to develop academically and personally. During my time with the theater department, I came to accept I was gay. All students should be provided with a safe and inclusive environment to be themselves. I fear this decision will greatly harm such spaces.”
Dan Warner has sent a letter to the South Williamsport Area School District Board of Directors and their superintendent asking them to censure the principal for his remarks and make a pledge to support LGBT students in the district.