Drama teachers navigating new policy

Loudoun Connection
October 15, 2005
By Kim Centazzo

Andrew Curtin is a first-year teacher at Park View High School in Sterling.
Although he did not work for Loudoun County Public Schools in 2004, the
theatre teacher has been affected by the Stone Bridge High School play
incident that depicted two boys kissing.

After the kiss, Loudoun County Public Schools enforced new regulations on
their drama departments.

“I think the regulations have forced me to take a much closer look at shows
before recommending them to my principal because I do not want to cause
problems for her,” Curtin said. “There’s a conservative scent in the air. An
adapt-or-get-out attitude.”

Park View High School students are preparing for their winter play, “Harvey” by Mary Chase, playing Nov. 17 to 19. “My principal has been fantastic,”
Curtin said. “She was incredibly supportive when she looked at the play.”

THE SCHOOL SYSTEM’S POLICY, entitled “Theatrical Presentation,” states
“theatrical productions involving obscenity or advocating the commission of
illegal acts or the violation of school rules or policies shall not be
permitted. Disclaimers may not be used in place of observing this policy.
The drama sponsor has the primary responsibility and the principal has the
final authority for ensuring this policy is followed.”

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SCHOOL YEAR, Loudoun County’s theatre teachers met with the superintendent Edgar Hatrick, to review the new policy. Potomac
Falls High School drama teacher, Jen Locke was a part of that group. “They
threatened to come up with a list of plays we could or could not do,” she
said. “Thankfully, they decided not to go with that. The regulations clearly
state that the principal and teacher of that school are responsible.”

Potomac Falls High School students recently won first place at the Virginia
High School State League one-act competition. On November 18, students will
travel to Charlottesville, to participate in a regional competition.
“The students are not really that affected, yet. They did not come out with
a strict list, but just re-stated what was already known about sex, drugs,
violence and profanity and made it clear who would be responsible,” Locke
said. “There was concern that we would not be able to do plays like
Shakespeare or West Side Story.”

Curtin said he would be hesitant to tackle issues on drug-use, homosexuality
and teen pregnancy, on stage. “These are all push button issues. I would be
hesitant to deal with issues that make people in the county uncomfortable,”
he said. “I think it is unfortunate because these are issues that kids are
dealing with today, in this age group.”

Curtin would like to see his students perform “The Laramie Project.” “I
am afraid that some people might only see the homosexual issue. There is a
lot more to it than that,” he said. “It is not just about violence against
homosexuals, a major issue in our society. It is about violence against any
group we definite as “other.” That is an important issue for our students to
be working with.”

DOMINION HIGH SCHOOL’S theatre instructor, Anne Pruitt DeVaughn, said the new
regulations “opened the lines of communication” between principals and
teachers. “Censorship is a sensitive issue, but the policy states that we as
drama teachers communicate with our principals,” she said. I have a pretty
open line of communication with my principal. That is what the regulations

All three drama teachers agree; the county and their principals have been
supportive. “I feel like the county has been trying to help us as much as
they can,” Curtin said. Dominion High School drama students are preparing for their next play, “A Tale of Nine Princes,” playing Nov. 3 to 6.

“THEATRE REFLECTS LIFE,” Curtin said. “While I can understand these
regulations, they are taking away a component of theatre. We cannot ignore
problems, hoping they will go away.”

This entry was posted in News and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.