After complaints from “a very small number of extremely vocal people,” a high school drama club in Enfield, Connecticut has cancelled its planned production of the musical American Idiot, even though the club’s faculty advisor was already working to cut out much of the more mature content that features in the Broadway version of the Green Day-inspired rock opera.
In an email to the Enfield High School community last week, Lamplighters club director Nate Ferreira regretfully announced the cancellation which came after students were well into the planning phase and just after auditions were held. Ferreira said that he had been working with the play’s publisher Music Theatre International to produce a “modified script and production notes [which] maintain the integrity of the show, while removing profanity and the more adult scenarios in the original Broadway production.”
Nevertheless, it had become clear that some members of Lamplighters would be barred by their parents from participating in the production. Together with EHS principal Andrew Longey, Ferreira made the difficult decision to call off what he described as “a show that most of the kids were extremely excited about” so that everyone who wanted to participate would be able to do so. According to the Hartford Courant, the Lamplighters have now opted to put on Little Shop of Horrors instead.
The cancellation got the attention of Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, who posted a message to the Enfield School District on Instagram:
it would be a shame if these high schoolers were shut down over some of the content that may be challenging for some of the audience. but the bigger issue is censorship. this production tackles issues in a post 9/11 world and I believe the kids should be heard. and most of all be creative in telling a story about our history.
I hope you reconsider and allow them to create an amazing night of theater!
While it doesn’t appear likely that American Idiot will go forward as a school-sponsored production anytime soon, Ferreira told New York theatre advocate and producer Howard Sherman that he is now considering other avenues to stage it locally. Even before the cancellation, he said, “I had…begun to feel that the material itself would be better served if I were to stage American Idiot _unedited_ with another local organization, and encourage the families who still wanted to do the show to become involved with it there.”
This is not the first time censorship in Enfield has made national news. As mentioned in the Hartford Courant’s editorial, town officials in 2011 pressured the public library to cancel a screening of Michael Moore’s documentary Sicko. The film was reinstated after the library turned the single screening into a series that would “include multiple points of view on controversial topics.” The following year Matthew Loux’s graphic novel Sidescrollers was removed as an option on the Enfield School District’s ninth grade summer reading list after one parent complained of profanity and sexual references in the book.
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.