Four years ago, Fred Phelps, the now banished (and the God-who-Hates-Fags-willing soon to be dead) founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, announced plans to boycott a Santa Ana staging of The Laramie Project, an oral history project turned play that documented the events surrounding the 1998 killing of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming and, most important, the repercussions in that university town two years later.
It's doubtful that Dr. George Giokaris, the superintendent of the Fullerton Union High School District, shares Phelps' views, but, apparently, he's got something against Troy High School producing the play, because he's put the kibosh on a production.
Earlier this year, The Laramie Projectwas proposed as the school's spring, open-audition play. It was soon nixed by Dr. Giokaris for "containing mature themes," according to a post on an on-line petition site, gsanetwork.org.
"Our school has put on plays containing mature themes before, with To Kill a Mockingbird (containing themes of rape, racism, and violence), The Cat and the Canary (in which a character was shown hanged and others shot on stage), and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (blunt depictions of abuse in mental institutions)," says the on-line post, which is not attributed. The Laramie Project is no worse ( and likely more appropriate) than many plays we have put on in the past. Our drama department has the right to put on this production, and does not deserve to be the victim of injustice."
Troy has a Gay and Straight Alliance club on campus and one teacher on the campus said he believes that members of that club have started the on-line petition.
A call to Dr. Giokaris has not been returned as yet.
While the play has generated protests from some small-minded quarters, for, one supposes, raising the possibility that the gay college student was the victim of a hate crime, the irony isn't that the play isn't pro-gay as much as it is anti-hate, and doesn't "glorify the homosexual lifestyle," as much as promote tolerance.
Which is exactly what an open letter to Dr. Giokaris accompanying the petition, alludes to:
"Please preserve the freedom of speech on Troy High School's Campus…As you sought to protect the freedom of speech with the recent Chick-Fil-A issue, we urge you to protect freedom of speech here once more on campus. The students of Troy deserve the protection of their first amendment rights just as each and every other American citizen. We urge you to allow the Troy High School Drama Department to put on the Laramie Project, a beautiful work that promotes tolerance in our nation."