Okay, how many of you are fans of Monty Python? If you are, you may have been lucky enough to see a production of “Spamalot,” the musical written by Eric Idle. If you haven’t, you really should. It’s an adaptation of the film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail and it’s riotously funny.
Apparently, though, not everyone thinks so. Jesse Smith, the principal of Pennsylvania’s South Williamsport Junior Senior High School, falls into that category. But it might surprise you — especially if you’re a MP fan — why he’s shutting down the school’s plans to present the musical next spring. He says it’s because there is a “same-sex marriage” scene in the play. Python fans can have a few minutes here to stop laughing.
The scene to which the principal seems to be referring is when Sir Lancelot fights his way into the tower of Swamp Castle to find that Prince Herbert is not, as he’d thought, an actual lady. To claim that this is a “same-sex marriage” scene shows a profound lack of awareness. Or an overly sensitive sense of propriety.
Drama Director Dawn Burch says she received an email telling her to cancel plans for the performance because it was “controversial.” She should find a “more appropriate” play instead. Claims that there is a homosexual theme in the play are wildly off-base, as any Python fan knows. The scene in question plays off of Lancelot’s misunderstanding of Prince Herbert’s gender. While Herbert would like to be rescued, and is a bit effeminate, there is no homosexual content in it. The marriage in question is the one Prince Herbert is supposed to undertake to Princess Lucky, which he hopes to escape by flagging down a passing knight to save him. It would seem that the Principal and Administrators just don’t understand British humor… and are maybe a bit homophobic as well.
Students are disappointed. Especially when the excuse for cancelling the show — aside from the marriage scene — is that it includes “inappropriate content” and would have to be “heavily edited” for it to be performed. Parents are divided, with some supporting the school and others seeing this as censorship. One former student commented on the story:
“I am a 2004 graduate of South Williamsport and this decision disappoints me on several levels. While I would like to see the exact wording of the emails from the administration, the fact that the show was cancelled for homosexual themes and because the content is beyond the comprehension of the teenagers is absurd. I read a lot of books, plays, novels, and short stories while at South Williamsport that were beyond my comprehension and contained sexually explicit themes, i.e. Shakespeare. This content did not in any way ruin me, but opened my mind to a bigger world than the narrow-minded Central PA.”
Other comments from current and former students state that the Administration is out of touch and “narrow-minded.” One current student said that they would not allow a student group to make an anti-bullying video even though it is a problem there (as it is in every school). The student continued that school administrators display a “… complete denial of major social issues.”
School Administrators have many obligations to juggle: educating children, keeping them safe, budgeting, reviewing programs, hiring teachers. It’s too bad that some have decided that censorship falls under their purview. I’m not saying that some things aren’t inappropriate for children. But this is a Jr. and Sr. high school, with older students. Their drama director felt that “Spamalot” was a play that students would enjoy performing and watching. It’s sad that her superiors have such closed minds.
As for whether or not students would “get” the humor in “Spamalot,” all one has to do is watch the film. While there are some very British jokes in it, which some might not understand, just as many jokes are plain old silly. And silly is easily understood by everyone. Well, almost everyone.
Here’s a video report from WNEP-TV16, Scranton