Liza Minelli in her “Cabaret” role
A California school district whose students were given approval to stage “Cabaret” with lingerie-clad teens has pulled its support for the project, but critics say that isn’t enough, and there needs to be a review of how permission for such a production was granted.
Officials in the Antelope Valley Union High School District have been under a flood of criticism since WND broke the story over the weekend that the production, approved by the school as part of a senior project, featured teen girls wearing garters, teddies and stockings – and little else.
The district shut down its website “Contact Us” page after the story broke, and now has issued a statement that its support has been withdrawn, and the students who assembled the production at Antelope Valley College’s Blackbox Theatre in Lancaster, Calif., will not get any school credit for it.
WND also has obtained photographs from the production, revealing a skin-flaunting, body-grabbing series of numbers for which most viewers would have to pay a cover charge and two-drink minimum, according to Mike Spence, a school board in West Covina, Calif., who was horrified at the situation.
“Clearly allowing a high school project that includes high school students in lingerie is more titillation than education. If you want to talk about the Nazi era there are ways to do it without lingerie,” he told WND.
“Cabaret” is set in the pre-World War Two clubs of Berlin, and features adult themes throughout.
“Somewhere, someone approved this project,” Spence said. “The school district did the right thing in denying credit, but obviously something broke down in the way things are approved.”
In a statement by Antelope Valley trustee Al Beattie, released after the wave of criticism hit, he said:
“Please understand that this is not a high school or district sponsored event. There are high school students, who are enrolled in a drama class at Antelope Valley College (with parental consent) that are participating in this production. The High School District has no control over the student involvement in this production.”
“There are two or three students who were planning on using their involvement as their required Senior Project,” he continued. “Because the production does not conform to district standards and bylaws or dress code, these students have been informed that they may not use this production as a means of satisfying the Senior Project graduation requirement.”
The school district does have a policy undergarments are required and midriffs be covered at all times, and another policy that bans sexually explicit or suggestive materials.
That’s a good start, said Karen England, executive director of the Capitol Resource Institute, but there needs to be an accounting by the teacher, or official, who initially approved the idea.
“We still have government schools putting their stamp of approval on this thing. Who’s approving this in the first place? What teacher approved this, and thought this was appropriate behavior? Are we still letting that person make these decisions?” she asked.
The school district had shut down its “Contact Us” page on its website shortly after the news story broke over the weekend. “It seems that the cowards do not want to take responsibility for the mess they have created,” one reader told WND. “This is another lapse in judgment on their part. It seems that it is (an) important part of the Antelope Valley curriculum that young girls learn the finer aspects of being sluts.”
The local newspaper, the Antelope Valley Press, had refused to publish photographs of the production because they were too risqu?.
One of those expecting to fulfill his public school Senior Project requirements by staging the story was Lane Williamson, who was directing the program.
He told the newspaper the district was over-reacting. “They are making a surface level decision based on the costumes – which are historically accurate,” he said. “Cabaret performers in Germany wore things that were much more revealing.”
“The musical numbers themselves are priceless – bold, raunchy and packed with sex appeal,” Williamson had told the newspaper’s entertainment writer, Julie Drake.
District Supt. David Vierra said the program, when he focused attention on it, was found to be “inconsistent” with district policies and “inappropriate for a high school setting.”
Vierra said when he discovered the situation there was consideration given to changing the costumes and editing some offending scenes. But that wouldn’t have been enough, he said.
“The content within the play still talks about and deals with issues that are inappropriate in a high school setting,” he told the newspaper.
As a Broadway show “Cabaret” has won many Tony Awards. As an R-rated film it collected eight Oscars, including one for Liza Minelli as Best Actress.
Williamson said he didn’t see anything inappropriate, and “I frankly think this is censorship.” He said the program was “approved” by everyone who needs to approve a senior project.
Antelope Valley Board President Tom Pigott said it’s good that students are involved in art and drama, however, “to take something that is generally accepted as risqu? and expect us to accept it as a senior project, that’s crossing the line.”
Titus Gee, a reporter for the Valley Press in Lancaster first reported on the situation, noting that the high school performers were “attired in bras, teddies, foundation garments, garter belts and little else.”
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