By Gregory Jacobs-Roseman (Composer-Lyricist)
During my freshman year of high school in November of 1997 I was playing the role of Christopher Wren in my school’s production of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. The character of Christopher was supposed to say the following line upon meeting the murder investigator sent to Monkswell Manor: “He’s very attractive, don’t you think so? I always think that policemen are very attractive.”
My director cut that line. Not out of homophobia or straight-washing but because she didn’t want to make a 14-year-old kid have to say that line in front of a school of ignorant kids in 1997 who already thought I was a loser. It was probably the right move to not add fuel to the fire, and at 14 I still didn’t know I was gay. If I had known, I may have requested that the line be cut myself, because the late 90’s were not a time to be out in high school.
But the times, as they say have changed – and drastically. I’m told my old, tiny, private high school in rural (I guess these days it’s now considered suburban – blame urban sprawl) Delaware now actually has a gay-straight alliance, something unthinkable when I was a student there. This is why now every time I hear a story about some high school somewhere in the country cancelling the performance of a play because it’s “inappropriate” I get pretty suspicious. While yes, there are plenty of plays and musicals out there that are truly inappropriate for high schoolers (Hair, anyone?), the term “inappropriate” in these cases seems to always actually mean something else: there are gay characters in the show.
Last month news broke that a high school in Pennsylvania cancelled their production of Spamalot for this very reason – and in this case they were outright honest that it was cancelled because of “homosexual themes.” This prompted outrage from the Dramatists Guild and a scathing letter from Guild president Stephen Schwartz (which you can read here). But what’s even more ridiculous is the news I saw Wednesday that a North Carolina production of Almost, Maine by John Cariani was cancelled because it was deemed inappropriate.