Education | Iowa | Matthew Shepard | Theatre

Iowa High School Principal Bans 'The Laramie Project', Says It's 'Too Adult'


A high school principal and superintendent in Ottumwa, Iowa are denying the students the right to perform The Laramie Project, Moisés Kaufman's play about the hate crime murder of gay Wyoming teen Matthew Shepard.

ShepardWatch The Heartland's Connection report on the controversy, AFTER THE JUMP...

The Ottumwa Courier reports:

"None of us can understand why they are shying away from it," said Jordan Young, 16, a student who is secretary of the OHS drama club. "The principal [of OHS] wants to get away from bullying, and he has initiatives he really [pushes]. So to hit so hard on a show that addresses bullying, it makes no sense."

She said other students she's met with feel similarly. "We were all confused more than anything," she said. "We didn't understand what was wrong with it. The planning started in October of last year. We have auditions in a month and a half!" She said students believe the problem lies in the subject of the play.

The Heartland Connection adds:

OHS Principal Mark Hanson denied the play from being performed through the school’s drama department. We reached out to Principal Hanson but he did not want to go on camera but he said “the play is too adult for a high school production but it does preach a great message.”

Ottumwa Community School’s Superintendent Davis Eidahl (pictured, top) says he fully supports Principal Hanson’s decision. “We really want the focus of our Ottumwa High School productions to be for the entire family,” said Eidahl.

The Matthew Shepard Foundation released a statement, which reads, in part:

This is not a play about being gay, or promoting anyone being gay; it’s about being targeted, hurt, murdered for being different, or perceived to be different, whatever that difference may be – and how this affects the community.

It is regrettable that the administration decided not to take the lead to provide their students and their community such an important learning opportunity, and instead is focused on a desire to show off their auditorium in what they feel is a “family-friendly” manner. We respectfully suggest that the main mission of a school district is to educate, not to entertain.

Watch The Heartland's Connection report on the controversy, AFTER THE JUMP...

Feed This post's comment feed


  1. They see things that are way more 'adult' [whatever that means] than this on the television news every day ...

    Posted by: peter | Jul 12, 2013 11:49:54 AM

  2. We learned about how Native Americans were killed (in detail) during my 6th grade class by our teacher who was half Cherokee (and I'm glad we did) but she got very real about the topic and it was certainly 'adult' but life as well. And this story is life. Reality. History. It's only being pegged controversial because homophobes don't like tackling homophobia.

    Posted by: Yellow Mellow | Jul 12, 2013 11:57:09 AM

  3. There should at this stage [sufficient time has passed] for a true accounting of what actually happened, what led up to Matthew's murder, and the real backgrounds and lifestyles of the two convicted murders and Matthew himself. It took many years, but it's now know Matt knew at least one of the defendants, and 'partied' with him and others more than once. All 3 [Matt and his 2 murderers] were known druggies and meth users. It was a terrible crime, more light needs to be shined on it, for better or for worse.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Jul 12, 2013 12:02:17 PM

  4. @yellow mellow,

    American Indians/Native Americans were treated terribly by the original European colonist and early Americans and Canadians. Treaties were routinely violated and a form of genocide did happen.

    But understand those were violent times for everybody. Natives were constantly at war with other natives, and they committed terrible atrocities to both other native tribes and to white settlers. Whites also of course were very warlike towards other whites, same with blacks in Africa, South American Indians/Mestizos [Aztecs were BRUTAL beyond belief, and were always at war with other Indian tribes, enslaving them, etc.,. Likewise, black ethnic tribes in Africa did the same thing. Violence and warfare was not unique to white Europeans by any stretch. They just had superior technology and were able to more effectively kill and maim.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Jul 12, 2013 12:08:51 PM

  5. more "adult" than reading "The Scarlet Letter?"

    more "adult" than the great works of challenging literature that young people can, and SHOULD, be studying?


    this can be perfectly summer up through the words of David Bowie:

    "and these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultations; they're quite aware of what they're going through"

    The Laramie Project is a vital and important work than young people's lives will be enriched by.

    rock on, kids.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Jul 12, 2013 12:26:38 PM

  6. Ratbastard...go get a loaded gun and shoot yourself for that Matthew Sheperd comment. F-cking die a brutal death you filthy monster

    Posted by: Fiat | Jul 12, 2013 1:07:20 PM

  7. ratbastard is a cancer on this site and some of us hope that's exactly what he ends up with soon

    Posted by: L.J | Jul 12, 2013 1:07:55 PM

  8. "Too adult?" It is obvious this bird needs to get out of his administrative office and talk to kids. If bullying, murder, discrimination, prejudice, and fear are "too adult," then can the MADD mothers, DARE officers, Proms, and
    ALL studies about war and genocide. This nut needs to stay away from kids, as he has no clue.

    Posted by: argeejay | Jul 12, 2013 1:08:01 PM

  9. The students, many I read want the play, should organize and campaign to get it staged. It can be done!!

    Posted by: Plume | Jul 12, 2013 1:08:30 PM

  10. Who is 'Fiat' and 'LJ'? What did I say? MATTHEW SHEPARD DID NOT DESERVE TO BE ASSAULTED, DID NOT DESERVE TO BE HORRIBLY MURDERED. RIP. But. Matt was a druggie and yes, he did know his killers.

    The more I learn about Matt's background, the more it looks clear to me he was a lonely kid, probably constantly moved as a child, including out of the country to a radically different culture, because his dad made big $ as an ex-pat overseas. The only place he could bond with from his childhood [which didn't sound very happy] and call 'home' was Wyoming. He also came from a wealthy background and had money to burn. Lethal combinations. I know similar people, and they all love to 'party', i.e use 'recreational' drugs, frequently. They do it not just out of unhappiness, but boredom. Luckily for them mom and dad can and often do pay for endless rehabs, their lessers aren't so lucky.

    I'm sure drugs and street drug use played a MAJOR role in Matt's murder. It's very, very sad.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Jul 12, 2013 1:18:28 PM

  11. Look, everyone is a product of their environments, ok? My dad was addicted to having sex with black men and because of his addiction to the biggest blackest male genitalia on earth, he's no longer around to kiss me on my toothless mouth anymore, as he died of a perforated anus. Losing my father to black genitals plays a MAJOR role in my desperate life as an internet commenter. It's very, very sad.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Jul 12, 2013 1:22:59 PM

  12. Kickstarter project to help these kids do this in a community venue, anyone?

    Posted by: Raybob | Jul 12, 2013 1:32:18 PM

  13. "It was a terrible crime, more light needs to be shined on it, for better or for worse."

    @ratbastard: That's precisely what The Laramie Project does, though perhaps not a light that suits you. Kids takes drugs, and in rural states it can certainly be a relief-mechanism from boredom. But most kids who take drugs don't get tortured by young thugs (whether they know them or not) and then crucified on a fence.

    Posted by: Ernie | Jul 12, 2013 1:36:09 PM

  14. they should find a local community theater to sponsor them and perform the play anyways. Make it a 50/50 split for the Shepard Foundation and the High School Drama department. Allow the drama teacher to hold the funds for things the department needs and keep it out of school control. Show the school they made the wrong choice!

    Posted by: Josh | Jul 12, 2013 5:24:42 PM

  15. absurd... How many productions of The Diary of Anne Frank have been performed in Jr and Sr High Schools all across America for decades..

    Posted by: jackJake | Jul 12, 2013 7:07:25 PM

  16. Stage the production anyway! I love te idea of finding a local community theatre! The buzz is already out there! The laramie project is a beautiful play everyone, especially teenagers, need to know about

    Posted by: USC Trojans Fan | Jul 12, 2013 9:19:44 PM

  17. I think by saying it is "too adult, " the principle is trying to give his students a lesson in real-world politics, where people make ridiculous statements with a straight face all the time.

    I've seen the play - don't even remember if it has a gay character in it as the play is about what happened in the town after the murder,

    As to any inappropriate "language" in it, a little NSA wiretapping of the kiddies' conversations would serve as a remember of how teenagers talk when their parents aren't around.

    Posted by: Bill | Jul 13, 2013 1:22:01 AM

  18. I graduated from that school in 1961, and I believe it was as conservative then as it appears to be now.

    Posted by: Goodcarver | Jul 13, 2013 3:47:44 PM

  19. As a former OHS Thespian, I want to say: SHAME. SHAME on the administration for not supporting this effort to treat students like the pre-adults that they are. HELLO. Having sex, having babies, drinking alcohol, taking drugs,being gay...who says that avoiding the issue makes it less real? Good God, give students the respect they deserve; just because you talk about something doesn't make it real (remember the monster under the bed when you were a kid?). Statistics have shown that talking about birth control does not make young people have sex! I am sorry and ashamed that Ottumwa administration is not standing in line with the state mandate to acknowledge gay marriage--the gay people who marry were once harassed teens. Matt S. would have probably married his partner--maybe even have moved to Iowa to do so! WAKE UP. Community Theatre is about selling tickets--high school theatre is about EDUCATION.

    Posted by: Luella Aubrey VanHook | Jul 26, 2013 10:03:14 PM

  20. Too those who make comments disparaging Iowa and Iowans. Does YOUR state allow gay marriage? Iowa was the third in the entire nation to legalize it. We also were the state that gave Barack Obama a real shot at the presidency, back in early 2008.
    So please - don't make an incorrect assumption about Iowa and those of us who live in this wonderful state, based on one or two backwards thinkers.
    Most of us here live and let live, not only in words, but in action. The play IS going ahead. Myself - I'm going to be playing Harry Woods, a gay man in the community-wide production of The Laramie Project. Hope you all come and see us in the play.
    Thank you very much.

    Posted by: John Gordon | Oct 7, 2013 2:30:42 AM

  21. « 1 2

Post a comment


« «Colombian Judge Says Gay Couple Can Marry; Sets July 24 Ceremony« «