, Newburyport, MA


March 31, 2014

In N.H. school, suppression is the lesson

It’s hard to give a pass to what the so-called leaders of the nearby New Hampshire Timberlane Regional School District have been up to these days. The bungling efforts to control the minds of youths (whose efforts to put on the thought-provoking play “Sweeney Todd” is being crushed) and control the words and thoughts of duly elected School Board members (who wilfully gagged themselves from speaking to the press and questioning decisions of the majority) is mindboggling.

If this is America’s future, we are in trouble.

One of the themes of the great American musical “Sweeney Todd” is how petty tyrants abuse their power to rob others of their rights, turning their victims and society at large mad.

That is precisely why the Timberlane Players ought to perform “Sweeney Todd” — with Timberlane school administrators and officials strapped into front-row seats.

“Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd ...”

Alas, that is apparently not to be.

Timberlane officials have taken it upon themselves to cancel the 2015 production of Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece because the script made School Superintendent Earl Metzler and other officials “uncomfortable,” to use Metzler’s word.

No, we can’t have art that makes anyone uncomfortable, especially officials.

Even a teensy bit uncomfortable. The Players planned to produce the school edition of the musical, a PG-13 version specially adapted by Sondheim to make it suitable for high schoolers and people like Metzler.

Disappointed student actors and parents are hoping to reverse the decision. Metzler has promised a public forum on the issue at some point — after the decision has been made.

Why not have the forum first then make a decision? you ask.

To quote the Red Queen in “Alice in Wonderland,” another great work of art that touches on the connection between the abuse of power and madness, “Sentence first — verdict afterwards.”

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