BIGOT WATCH: PA High School Principal Cancels Spamalot Over “Homosexual Themes”


Opponents of marriage equality may not have much luck nixing same-sex marriage in our state, but, according to some recently revealed emails, they can keep it from playing out on stage.

Keystone Progress uncovered a series of emails that reveal South Williamsport Junior/Senior High School Principal Jesse Smith cancelled a production of Spamalot at his school because it contained “homosexual themes.” More from Towelroad:

In emails sent last June, Smith said that he was concerned about “a gay wedding being performed [in the musical].” Musical director Dawn Burch replied, “I am fully aware of their place in the script and am not certain what offense they create,” noting that marriage equality had recently arrived in Pennsylvania.

Smith then explained that he was “not comfortable with Spamalot and its homosexual themes” because “this type of material [would make] it very hard” for families to attend. He added that he did not “want students to have to choose between their own personal beliefs and whether or not to take part in a production.”

When Burch wrote to [Superintendent Mark] Stamm that she found it “extremely disappointing that homosexuality would be the basis of not approving a show,” noting that “this is how we raise children to be haters,” the superintendent replied that he was familiar with Smith’s objections and stood by them.

Yuck. The scene in question is about five minutes long. It revolves around a song, “His Name is Lancelot,” where Lancelot allows a character to marry his male partner. I read another piece of commentary on Instinct, which made the excellent point that we’ve seen tons of plays that showcase opposite-sex wedding. So what’s the difference? Especially in a state where gay marriage is legal. Unacceptable!

Read more from Keystone Progress here.

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  • Mark Cofta

    So poor Jesse Smith is “uncomfortable” with a brief gay wedding scene and decides for everyone, based on his own feelings of discomfort. Imagine him “uncomfortable” with broccoli — would he ban it from the cafeteria, lest other people be allowed to make their own difficult vegetable decisions?

    Seriously, does he really know which, or how many, families or students would be too “uncomfortable” with that brief, silly scene in a beloved Broadway hit musical to participate in the production or even see the show?

    I shudder at the thought of all of South Williamsport’s parents boycotting their kids’ show because of one scene — but then I realize that the the only person staying away out of discomfort would be poor homophobic Jesse Smith, who is happy to deprive his entire school and community of this smart, fun show merely because he, personally, is “uncomfortable.” Even if it doesn’t fit everyone’s narrow tastes or worldview, they would still support their kids . . . except Jesse Smith, who just can’t stomach the discomfort of seeing a brief, chaste portrayal of two characters in love. Poor fellow. He could try Pepto Bismol, but of course that bright pink might cause an anti-gay relapse.

    I would love to know what show suits his delicate constitution (Josh, can you find out what they’re doing instead?). Will it be the Nazis in The Sound of Music or The Producers, the rapes in The Fantastiks or Man of La Mancha, or the knife murders in Oklahoma! or West Side Story? How about the domestic abuse and, yes, another knife murder, in Carousel? Or The King and I’s polygamy? These shows are all high school standards, most of them for decades (I played one of those rapists in La Mancha in 1977, when I was a junior!).

    A high school principal should be a leader, not a slave to his own ignorant and petty discomforts. A principal should look forward and up, not backward and down. A principal shouldn’t assume that his community is as small-minded and homophobic as he is. Producing a rewarding musical experience should be more important than Jesse Smith’s discomfort.