Don’t you just hate it when Oregon lands in the national and international press in a way that makes us all sound like backwoods rubes? As if we're Floridians, for God's sake!

The latest is the story out of La Grande, where local high school administrators decided that Steve Martin’s play “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” was too racy for the young ‘uns. Apparently, one parent scratched up a petition with 137 signatures from community members who objected to the play's setting in a bar and its sexual references. It's a known fact that high school students in Eastern Oregon don’t drink, nor are they sexually active.

The concerned parent read the script and counted 18 instances of profanity, 15 instances of religious exclamation or religious profanities, 22 instances of sexual references or sexual content and 17 instances of alcohol use. At least we know they can count.

What thrust this story beyond our borders is that Steve Martin heard it and offered to cover the costs of producing the play off-campus. Steve Martin is hereby forgiven for the Pink Panther films.

Read more about it in the La Grande Observer, The Oregonian, the BBC or the Huffington Post.

I will never, ever understand why some people are so afraid of the expression of ideas, or why some parents can't see that their high school children are intelligent people capable of independently interpreting what they read in books or see on stage.


You can read Steve Martin's letter to the citizens of La Grande, as printed by the La Grande Observer.

You can also visit the blog authored by Kevin Cahill, the teacher who selected Mr. Martin's play.


~Christopher said...

Thanks for the post. I agree, we ought to acknowledge that young people are full human beings, who have the ability to handle difficult concepts. I also agree that, despite his recent film appearances, Steve Martin can still produce work of comedic and artistic merit.

Unknown said...

And thanks for the link to the blog by Kevin Cahill, the teacher who's putting up with all this nonsense with what seems like determined grace under ridiculous pressure. His recording of the fracas on his blog is fascinating: an interesting fellow out there in La Grande.

Steve Martin is a good banjo picker and a good writer with a sharp mind (he used to contribute essays to The New Yorker; does he still?) and a playwright who's interesting not only for his celebrity name: Check out "The Underpants" sometime.

You could see early on that he was more than just a wild and crazy guy (although that was a pretty good thing to be). I'm thinking in particular of his starring role in the 1981 movie "Pennies From Heaven," which is a gritty musical fantasy set in the Depression about what can happen to a good person's soul in a bad time, and it also features an intense, creepy, memorable performance by Vernel Bagneris as the accordion man.

Over Mr. Martin's recent forays into the territory of Inspector Clouseau, I draw a discreet veil.

MightyToyCannon said...

I think Kevin Cahill deserves some kind of "Best" award as a teacher. And, I agree that Steve Martin is a very talented writer. I enjoyed "Underpants" at PCS (last season?) as a fun romp.

As I write, OPB's "Think out Loud" is covering the censorship topic. The teaser for the show says that a censorship watch group (watchgroup?) has called Oregon a "hotbed of censorship."

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. Really, I think high schoolers are mature enough to not participate in something if they find it objectionable. And do parents seriously think that not performing a play is going to preserve their innocent little souls? Heaven forbid!

Steve Martin is a talented entertainer. Everybody screws up now and then. Heck, Colin Firth agreed to be in Mamma Mia, for cryin' out loud. And freaking Joss Whedon made Angel.