Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It's a scandal, it's a outrage

So this is apparently real:
PITTSBURGH (AP) — A Pennsylvania school district has decided not to stage a Tony Award-winning musical about a Muslim street poet after community members complained about the timing so soon after the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The show: Kismet. And although I read this story thinking "There has to be more to it," there isn't, at least not according to the public reports. School district officials didn't find anything objectionable in the content, but the dropped it anyway, because Kismet has Muslim characters. And by the way, by "so soon after the tenth anniversary..." they mean in February. February of 2012.

Now, I'm not sure high school students should ever attempt to put on Kismet, because the music is difficult. But the idea that mentioning the existence of Baghdad or Islam - in a cartoonish way, in a 1950s stage musical - would be somehow inappropriate would never have crossed my mind. (Unless it was decided that the content, cartoonish as it is, was insensitive to Muslims, but we are very far away from that sort of thinking here.)
[School superintendent Thomas] Fleming said sensitivity about the play is understandable because of Flight 93's demise in nearby Shanksville, and because the sudden death of a drama student in a car crash affected students last year.
Oh Lord, it's like the "Ground Zero Mosque" nonsense all over again, smaller and dumber. I don't care where you are; if you're offended by the mention of Arabia, you shouldn't be humored. And that last part might be relevant if (a) the show were being canceled altogether, because the drama students are too upset to put it on regardless of its content, or (b) the show were about a car crash. It does not explain why they have to switch to a different show because someone realized that the guy who sings "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" is a Muslim (and so were the terrorists!).

When I read the brief story in the Johnstown Tribune Democrat, I gathered that what Fleming must have been trying to say is that he feels the kids have been through enough already, and they're trying to protect them from futher turmoil. They're educators, after all:
"We’re in the business of trying to do what’s best for the kids – not to do anything detrimental if we can avoid it."
Yes, think of the lessons they might learn if the performance were allowed to go on.

But wait! This is the best part:
The play has no inappropriate content, [music director Scott] Miller said, but he and other members of the performing arts committee decided to switch to "Oklahoma!" after hearing complaints.
I'd like to think of this as a sly act of rebellion on the part of the "performing arts committee." I just hope nobody tells those concerned community members about Ali Hakim until opening night.


CarrieM said...

Hee hee! (Although I always thought that ethnicity was a bit of a put on.)

Mollie said...

That is an interesting question, actually (well, interesting to me!) - how authentically "Persian" is Ali Hakim, really? I mean, Eddie Albert in orange makeup: I always assumed that the folks casting Oklahoma! in the '50s didn't think it was important that the character be convincingly Middle Eastern. But I suppose you could interpret it as a sign that Hakim is a fraud through and through (like Pirelli in Sweeney Todd). I'm not sure the script completely supports that interpretation, but I like it!