High school system in American

Something Unpredictable With “American Idiot” In High School Theatre

Casting Notice for American Idiot at Enfield High School“Welcome to a new kind of tension.
All across the alienation.
Where everything isn’t meant to be okay.”

The details are very sketchy. The drama director hasn’t yet responded to a call or e-mail. The school principal said that he “wasn’t comfortable” talking about it without the approval of the superintendent, which he did say he would seek. The licensing house that handles the rights for the musical has not responded to an e-mail inquiry about approved changes (although the company’s president is overseas). An anonymous source who provided some background materials won’t be named publicly because they fear recriminations against their child in the school system.

But here’s what’s known: the Enfield High School Lamplighters, in Enfield CT, were scheduled to perform the musical American Idiot this spring, with auditions set for January 13 and 14, with callbacks on January 15. Performances were set for early May.

On January 17, Nate Ferreira, faculty director of the Lamplighters, sent a general e-mail to the school community which included the following statement:

As most of you know, we had a drama club meeting this past Wednesday to discuss the details of producing “American Idiot” as our final show this school year. Due to the mature content of the original production, I have been working with the publisher to modify the script, to ensure that it would be appropriate for a high school group to perform.

This project was very successful, and we feel that the modified script and production notes maintain the integrity of the show, while removing profanity and the more adult scenarios in the original Broadway production. The publisher is even starting the process of turning our edited version of the script into their official “School Edition” of the play, to allow other high schools to easily perform this play in the future.

As I’ve stated at our student/parent meetings during the past two school years: this extended production process was intended to allow us to work on a show that most of the kids were extremely excited about, while continuing the award-winning Lamplighters tradition of exploring serious issues in a mature and responsible way. In the same way that our presentation of the student-authored and directed “Happily Never After” last year did an excellent job of handling the difficult issues of domestic abuse and justifiable homicide, “American Idiot” opens discussion about many issues of young adulthood.

Unfortunately, a very small number of extremely vocal people have complained about our choice of production. This led to Mr. Longey [principal Andrew Longey] and I meeting on Friday to discuss a change in our choice of production. To be clear, Mr. Longey did not force us to change – he and I took a long and careful look at all aspects of the show, and all arguments on either side. At this late stage it is very difficult to switch to a different play, but I do feel that it is best for us to set aside “American Idiot” for the time being. I want ALL of our club members to be able to be a part of our musical, and I want to be absolutely certain that the play happens at all.

Billie Joe Armstrong in American Idiot on Broadway

Currently, the last post on the Lamplighters Facebook page is a reference to a meeting on January 20. There is no announcement of a new show for the spring.

While hopefully more details will fall into place, there is someone else who would like to see the production of American Idiot go on. I reached out to Christine Jones, who designed the set for the Broadway production of American Idiot, in an effort to make Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, the composer and lyricist of the show, aware of the situation. Armstrong sent back the following message through Jones in a little over an hour’s time, and reportedly also posted it on Instagram (it is reproduced here precisely as he wrote it):

dear Enfield high school board,

It has come to my attention that you cancelled your high school theater production of American Idiot.

I realize the content of the Broadway production of AI is not quite “suitable” for a younger audience.

However there is a high school rendition of the production and I believe that’s the one Enfield was planning to perform which is suitable for most people.

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!

as they say on Broadway ..

“the show must go on!”

rage and love

Billie Joe Armstrong

P.S. I love that your school is called “Raiders”

Mr. Ferreira seems to have followed every appropriate step in the process of planning this show for Enfield High, but the production has been suspended. Yet he is still hoping that American Idiot will be done at some point. So is its author, who has apparently granted permission to alter the work to make it more appropriate in a school setting. Perhaps there’s still room for dialogue, and Enfield High can still give its students the opportunity to take on challenging, modern work.

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