OTTUMWA — Intolerance is battled daily in Ottumwa schools, said the district's chief, whether or not he denies permission for one theater production on the subject.
Ottumwa High School drama students recently found out a play, "The Laramie Project" by Moisés Kaufman, scheduled for the upcoming school year, would not be performed. The play shows the challenges faced by a town after a young man is beaten to death for being gay. Students say there's an important message about acceptance in the real-life story about Matthew Shepard and that they're excited to tell that story.
"None of us can understand why they are shying away from it," said Jordan Young, 16, a student who is secretary of the OHS drama club. "The principal [of OHS] wants to get away from bullying, and he has initiatives he really [pushes]. So to hit so hard on a show that addresses bullying, it makes no sense."
She said other students she's met with feel similarly.
"We were all confused more than anything," she said. "We didn't understand what was wrong with it. The planning started in October of last year. We have auditions in a month and a half!"
She said students believe the problem lies in the subject of the play.
According to the superintendent, that's not completely inaccurate. But it's not bullying, murder or the victim being a gay student that drove the decision to deny permission for The Laramie Project, said Davis Eidahl. It's the intensity of the adult subject matter.
"The rationale is we really want to produce and showcase family-friendly productions, where all family members can come. The productions are to showcase our students, our auditorium, the district. And it's a time we connect with the community," Eidahl said. "Indian Hills actually put 'viewer discretion advised' when they performed [this show]."