---- — To the Ottumwa school district and superintendent:
As a graduate of the Ottumwa school district, I would like to voice a concern. I have been informed that you have recently turned down Mrs. Saunders the opportunity to direct “The Laramie Project” on the grounds that you wanted to avoid a controversy concerning this play. This play has been performed at countless high schools and theatre districts across the country in spite of controversy that you all seem to fear.
Let us think for a moment about the controversy you’re so afraid of. Is it because you fear what you may be exposing students to a play that depicts a murder? Is it because it’s about the torture of a young man that did not deserve it? Or is it because it is about a gay man?
Ladies and gentlemen, open a web browser and expose these students to the Internet for 10 minutes.
You will find more deplorable actions in those 10 minutes than the entire play that Mrs. Saunders wants to put on.
Do you truly believe that by denying this production you are protecting students from controversy? The deepest chambers of your hearts, do you truly believe that?
The message I read was that you feared that the controversy would overshadow these young individuals’ talents. I would like to disagree with that as well. By denying this play, you have ultimately overshadowed any involvement by these individuals with the media attention you are garnering with your decision.
However, you have now found yourself backed into a corner. If enough people pursue you to change your closed minds, then you will have listened to the voice of the community. If you stay on this course, you will forever be regarded as close minded and intolerant to the community.
I implore you. I have worked under the direction of Mrs. Saunders for my four years at the high school. There is no finer director for this show that you could find and no finer student body to produce this moving production. No one could reach the potential that they have, nobody could do this play the justice they can.
Thespian Troupe #615
Ottumwa High School alumni 2005
Former student upset with the superintendent
I am a 2008 graduate of Ottumwa High School and some unsettling news was brought to my attention. The superintendent of the Ottumwa Schools has decided not to give permission to the OHS Drama department to perform the show “The Laramie Project.”
For those that are unfamiliar, it is an incredibly poignant show about the brutal killing of a homosexual young man and the unprecedented effect it had on the town that he was raised in. The show is gritty, beautiful and simultaneously breaks down and restores your faith in humanity. Regardless of your beliefs on homosexuality, this show is, to me, a statement on how people’s lives and deaths have such a profound effect on one another.
I was under the impression that we were far past not allowing thought-provoking pieces in our schools. There was a time when most of the books that have become a staple in high school English classes were on a “ban list.”
We have a responsibility as a society to face issues, such as the one presented in “The Laramie Project,” because without recognizing and tackling them, we are doomed to keep struggling with them without resolution.
Please, I ask only that you look into the real reasons that this incredible show has been denied. To deny a high school that on a daily basis wrestles with bullying, a show with such a positive message of acceptance and kindness is such a heartwrenching injustice.
We had it good.
My father worked at Morell’s. We had what we needed, a little to save and a nice vacation in the summer. As I grew up, a factory job was there. All you had to do was go into a factory and say, “I want to work.” They had you working the floor in a few days.
Then the factories decided that by sending jobs overseas, they could make more money and get a few robots to move things around. It’s working. Less people to pay, more money in the banks.
Back in 1960s, there was no welfare or food stamps. We didn’t need them. We had good jobs.
Who will buy the things made in the factories? The rich, of course, and we the people with our welfare and food stamps. Now we are told we are using too much off the government.