Martha Graham Cracker Invited to Read to School, Then Told She’s Too Inappropriate [Updated]

The drag cabaret legend’s invitation to perform at an after-school program is revoked when officials deem her unsuitable for tots.

Philly drag cabaret legend Martha Graham Cracker has performed in front of almost every kind of audience imaginable — from gays and straights to, well, Bill Murray — but recently she was asked to do something she’s never done before: read to kids at an after-school program. The unique opportunity was nixed dead in its tracks, however, when school officials chimed in that her act was “inappropriate” for children.

It all started when Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret bandleader (and Philly Post contributor) Victor Fiorillo received an email from Mark Simmons, a supervisor at Haddonfield Child Care, an after-school program in New Jersey with around 25 kids ranging in age from kingergarten to fifth grade. He wanted Martha to take part in his upcoming Read Across America series that paid tribute Dr. Seuss. She would read from a Seuss book of her choice, and maybe sing a few kid-friendly ditties. Simmons stated that he usually invited “local authors, police, politicians and illustrators,” but wanted to ask Martha, because he was “trying to add a bit of variety to our program.”

Fiorillo says the group was excited to accept the invitation. A message was posted on the Cabaret’s Facebook wall, and “likers” seemed ecstatic about the idea. A few days later, however, Fiorillo received this message from Simmons:

I’m in a bit of a quandary here … I’m being told by some of my superiors in this organization that this guest choice is inappropriate. I cannot, however, get any of them to tell me why or how Martha Graham Cracker reading Dr. Seuss to our after-school program is inappropriate.

Simmons, it should be noted, said he was “happy to advocate for this to happen,” volunteering to gather letters of support from the community and “make a presentation to the company decision-makers with the hopes of changing their minds.” This idea, too, was thrown out, however. In an email that came through today, Simmons wrote, “I have been given an official ‘no’ as far as bringing in Martha, and have been told not to send my letters to the parents.”

Now we all know Martha’s regular act isn’t  kid-friendly, but we also know she’s not stupid enough to take that same performance to a school room. Each year, The Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret performs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where, Fiorillo says, “there are dozens of young children.” One mother even remarked on the aforementioned Facebook post that:

My daughter has seen your show about 3 times. She frequently refers to Martha Graham Cracker as one of her characters while she plays. Bath time is particularly funny when she names her gaudiest mermaid Martha. She really adores you, and she’s a tough critic.”

So what’s the problem here? Is it the fact that he’s gay? Are supervisors afraid seeing a man in a wig and dress would corrupt the children? In a letter Simmons sent to the school’s director, he said, “I think that this unique mix of costumed characters shows a wide variety of careers and personalities and fits in with our lessons of being accepting to everybody and all lifestyles.” If the program harbors such a mission statement, why would it have a problem with Miss Graham Cracker?

Updated [4:35 p.m., 2/26/13]: The school has yet to respond, but there is good news to report: Martha Graham Cracker has been invited to read Dr. Seuss to kids at the Christ Church Neighborhood House on Sun., March 3 at 2 p.m. Go here for all the details.

Updated [2:19 p.m., 2/27/13]: Haddonfield Day Care released a vague statement on its website, saying, “We strive to provide a variety of activities that respect the individual needs and parenting styles of all of the families we serve.” Go here for complete text.

Updated [2:17 p.m., 3/3/13]: Martha Graham Cracker reads Green Eggs and Ham to parents and children at Christ Church Neighborhood House. Click here for video.

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  • Sonia

    Loving that comment from the parent whose daughter loves Martha’s PMA shows and how she named her Mermaid after her. I would certainly bring my child to a PMA show, that is the best performance they ever have! It’s a shame that these kids have to miss out on meeting such an influential, intelligent and talented artist due to close minded officials/parents/which ever it may be.

  • Frank

    The kids wouldn’t have found any reason to object, I’m sure — they have to be taught that sort of close-mindedness. But it looks like there are few adults who need to re-read their Seuss.

  • Anne McCormick

    I have seen Martha work with the kids for the Rock School. Martha was great and the kids loved her. I would love to see Martha read to kids.

  • Bill

    I believe the good Dr. would say “be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and thos who matter don’t mind”

    Sad that the message should be lost, especially this month.

  • So, none of these parents, or other elders, remember Benny Hill? Or was that only shown in NYC? Even my old-time gramps thought Hill was kinda funny.

  • JoyfulA

    And does no one remember Milton Berle, who had the most-watched TV show in the 1950s? I don’t recall anyone being horrified by his cross-dressing then (when I was the age of these kids) or in the many decades since.

  • jayarby

    You’re kidding , right? No way is this appropriate for kids.

  • Sorry – couldn’t resist!

    “I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny
    “But we can have lots of good fun that is funny
    “So look at me
    “Look at me
    “Look at me now
    “It is fun to have fun
    “But you have to know how.”

    “He should not be here”, said the school in a snot
    “He should not be here when your mothers are not!
    “Of dragons and queens you are welcome to read
    “But a queen that’s in drag is a thing we don’t need
    “Whether gay whether queer we don’t want to know
    “The man’s inappropriate: he’ll just have to go
    “Or rather not come, not here, not today,
    “You want to know why: well we’d rather not say.
    “So though it is wet and the sun is not sunny
    “You may not have lots of good fun that is funny
    “Don’t look at him
    “Look at him
    “Look at him now
    “It is fun to have fun
    “But we’ll tell you how!”

  • bpc

    Hey Sonia, I’m really happy for you that you can take your daughter to see Martha. Too bad you don’t have the same respect for those of us who do not want to subject our young children to such things. What’s more is I don’t relish the idea my child being used as a social pawn in the LGBT agenda.
    I really think this invitation was extended with the sole purpose of creating controversy to further an agenda.