Brett Fisher: Kneejerk reaction kills school play

Comedy TragedyDec. 14, 2012 will forever be a day of mourning. Sandy Hook Elementary School was attacked by a gunner on this day that left 26 people – mostly children – dead. We all know that story, and that’s not the story I am here to tell.

On the days just before, a high-school drama class in western Virginia was doing its final rehearsals for their play Lockdown by Douglas Craven. On the morning of the 14th, everyone was watching the same news story. Everyone’s initial reaction was to be expected, grief and sadness. But for the high-school drama class, their next thought was of the play.

The day went on. The students in their classes were talking about the shooting with their peers and teachers. By the end of the day, an all-call was made to the school asking all participants of the play to report to the drama classroom. Although I was considered an independent study student, I went anyway because I knew what it was about and was curious to see what would be done.

The class walked in one at a time from various locations across the school building. The teacher of the class was sitting at her desk, and the principal of the school was standing front and center. He asked the teacher if everyone was there, and she confirmed that all students were present. He proceeded to tell us what he had to say.

Lockdown was about a classroom of students in a lock-down situation. The characters do not know if it is a drill or an actual emergency. The play uses very serious themes such as religion and bravery in the face of danger as well as dark humor as comedy relief.

Due to the nature of Lockdown, the show was canceled that night. It was deemed in poor taste to continue with the show. Some students understood, but some students were enraged. They had been working on this production for months, and the night to preform was finally upon them. Upon leaving the classroom, conversations erupted from the students. Some stated they hadn’t heard about the shooting yet. Some said they expected this to happen. But others, and the more interesting of the groups, expressed their anger. To me, the frustration was not misplaced.

While no one in the right mind will disagree that the shooting was terrible at the least, I do disagree that the production had to be canceled. The shooting occurred in Connecticut, not Virginia, first. It is public knowledge that the theme of Lockdown is what it is; those who would be offended or upset by it simply should not attend it. Royalties were paid, scripts were purchased, and countless hours were spent preparing for the big night, only for it to be canceled because the show may hurt people’s feelings.

Lockdown is a very powerful and well-written play. It is one of my favorite pieces of all time, and I am sad that I did not get to watch my class perform it.


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