Monday, March 16, 2009

Steve Martin to the Rescue

We have seen in our own county how a small group of radicals can hold the school district hostage. Out in Oregon this happened, but luckily there is a way to carry on even over the objections of the whiners critics.
Steve Martin has offered to pay for an off-campus production of his play "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," which the school board banned from La Grande High School because parents objected to what they called adult content.

The actor, comedian, art collector and banjo picker says in a letter to the community that he wants to keep the play, conducted in other high schools without controversy, "from acquiring a reputation it does not deserve."

The 1993 play imagines a meeting between Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein in a Paris bar as they are on the verge of great achievements in painting and physics.

It is aimed at explaining "the similarity of the creative process involved in great leaps of imagination in art and science," as the letter (HERE) published Friday in The La Grande Observer put it.

Last month a parent objected to the production planned by teacher Kevin Cahill and gave school officials a petition signed by 137 people. The school board halted rehearsals. Steve Martin to pay for banned La Grande High School play [Links edited for clarity]

The Student Democrats in La Grande raised some money to move the play to the local college, and Steve Martin will contribute.

His letter to the newspaper makes for some good reading. Here it is in its entirety:
To the citizens of La Grande:

It has come to my attention that there is a controversy regarding my play, “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” which was to be produced at your local high school.

First let me compliment Mr. Kevin Cahill, the teacher who selected the play, on his excellent taste! The play has been performed, without incident, all over the world by professional and amateur companies, including many high schools.

Because I don’t know the standards of your community or the life experience of your students, it is impossible for me to address whether my play is appropriate to be performed on campus, although in the limited web exchanges I have read, the students, and the eloquent Mr. Cahill, seem to understand the play and can discern that the questionable behavior sometimes evident in the play is not endorsed.

I have heard that some in your community have characterized the play as “people drinking in bars, and treating women as sex objects.” With apologies to William Shakespeare, this is like calling Hamlet a play about a castle. This play is set in an actual bar in Paris that was frequented by Picasso, a historical site that still exists today.

Focusing on Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity and Picasso’s master painting, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” the play attempts to explain, in a light-hearted way, the similarity of the creative process involved in great leaps of imagination in art and science. Pablo Picasso, as a historical figure, does not come gift-wrapped for the sensitive. He lived as he painted, fully sexual and fully daring, and in the play he is chastised by a sage bartendress for his cavalier behavior toward women.

Because of the controversy, I recently reread the play, and, frankly, I could understand how some parents might object to certain lines if they were to be delivered by a 16- or 17-year-old. Yet I do believe that the spirit of the play and its endorsement of the arts and sciences are appropriate for young eyes and minds.

So while the question of whether students should perform the play at their high school remains something to be determined by the community, I firmly believe that seeing the play will bring no harm to them and might well uplift them — and acting in the play, if they are permitted by their parents, would also bring them no harm, and may help them to understand the potency, power and beauty of the arts and sciences.

I suspect that the signers of the petition against the production read excerpts only, and were not shown the more delicate and inspirational parts of the script.

To prevent the play from acquiring a reputation it does not deserve, I would like to offer this proposal: I will finance a non-profit, off-high school campus production (low-budget, I hope!), supervised and/or directed by Mr. Cahill and cast at his discretion, so that individuals, outside the jurisdiction of the school board but within the guarantees of freedom of expression provided by the Constitution of the United States, can determine whether they will or will not see the play, even if they are under 18.

I predict that the experience will not be damaging, but meaningful.

Steve Martin wrote the play “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.’’ He is an actor and comedian. Of arts and sciences

I thought that was a perfect response. He doesn't want to tell the people of La Grande what to do, if their school board is afraid of the local nuts, well, the people get what they asked for. At the same time, he doesn't want his play to get a reputation for being pornographic or objectionable. It is good enough to be produced everywhere else, including in high schools, and he will invest a little to make sure it gets produced in La Grande, too.

I wrote a couple of years ago about a television show that received eleven thousand complaints. Only two of the people who complained had actually seen the show. In fact, the show was a rerun, and in its first viewing the FCC received zero complaints about it -- none. Some nutty group had emailed all their members to complain, and that was what happened. The network was fined more than three million dollars as a result.

Same thing here. Steve Martin's play has shown all over the place, but some nutty citizen got a bug up their butt and ran around with petitions, and the school board showed no spine. According to the script, the kids should have been out of luck, play canceled, that's it. But first student volunteers started raising money to solve the problem, and now the author of the play is going to help out, too, and I expect the production will have a much larger audience than it would have. So there.


Anonymous Derrick said...

It is quite sad...these days some parents think they can walk all over administrators and teachers instead of working together as a team to ensure their child does well in school. All it takes these days is a quick email to complain about something and their wish is granted.

For example, I teach upper-level Spanish and my principal got an email from a parent who said that I speak TOO MUCH SPANISH in a Spanish five class (at this point students have had at least six years of Spanish) and AP Spanish Literature courses (at least 7 years of Spanish). The principal approached me to discuss the parent complain. I told him, "just because one parent wants the education of their child hampered does not mean I am going to do that for everyone". No wonder why my AP students do so well on the AP Spanish exams!!

Turns out the parent was just upset that her child was getting a C and SHE was the person doing his homework (so she was actually getting that C). Go figure!

Most parents are great, but all it takes is one person to complain and the domino effect to enabled education begins.

Sounds like this parent from Oregon needs to get he head checked because there are a lot more people who would love to see that production rather than have radical ideas about what is best for other people´s children.

Kinda sad for the majority.

March 16, 2009 2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The principal approached me to discuss the parent complain"

"Sounds like this parent from Oregon needs to get he head checked"

I guess we should all be thankful this guy teaches Spanish and not English.

Otherwise, he might need to get "he head checked".

March 16, 2009 6:16 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Now I'm worried about you, barryo, stooping to criticize typos for heaven's sake.

Go outside and take a walk, the fresh air might do you good.

March 16, 2009 7:05 PM  
Anonymous Derrick said...

Haha.. Nice, AnonBigot.

I guess I should rely on spell-check and stop thinking for myself, just like the rest of the religious right.

March 16, 2009 7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think crazy old Auntie Bea should go get she head checked

March 16, 2009 7:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

did you guys hear that DC has the highest AIDS infection rates in the country?

10% of DC males between 40-49 are infected

and most of them have heard of condoms

March 16, 2009 7:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of them are probably gay men. One of the problems with the gay lifestyle. That is why it is not meant to be.

March 16, 2009 7:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

U left something out, anonymous - a few things -

"Almost 1 in 10 residents between ages 40 and 49 are living with HIV, and black men had the highest infection rate at almost 7 percent."

A racist would take this and stigmatize black males - just like you have done with gays.

March 16, 2009 8:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve Martin said: "Because of the controversy, I recently reread the play, and, frankly, I could understand how some parents might object to certain lines if they were to be delivered by a 16- or 17-year-old."

So Steve Martin agrees with the petitioners that teenagers should not be reciting certain lines in his play. He therefore agrees with the parents who complained.

March 16, 2009 9:49 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Truthiness alert!

Oh brother, barryo, so now you're taking one sentence out of context and pretending that Steve Martin said he agrees with the whiners. No, he doesn't agree with them. He simply said he could see their point of view, he "could understand."

It's clear as day he does not agree with the whiners. That's why he's helping to fund the production at a different venue in the same locale. The show must go on!

March 17, 2009 7:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crazy Old Auntie Bea, "barryo" hasn't commented on this post.

He finds it rather boring.

March 17, 2009 7:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're wrong, Aunt Bea. First, I'm NOT anon deluxe (aka "barryo"). Anon deluxe is bored and his/her mind is wandering.

Next...Steve Martin said he understands why parents don't want their children to read those lines. He was as clear as a bell.

There are lots of things that children see or hear that you wouldn't want them to actually do.

If you watch a documentary or movie which depicts cocaine users snorting cocaine, that's one thing. If your child has to get on stage and actually snort cocaine, that's quite another thing altogether.

If I flip through the television stations and my eight-year-old child hears someone say "F___ you" -- well, I might not like it but I have to brush it off. However, if my eight-year-old's teacher asks him to recite "F___ you" in a play -- that's a different story altogether, and I can do something about that.

There are distinctions in life, Aunt Bea.

I see nothing wrong with Steve Martin offering the play to the people of the town. He's acknowledging that he can see why the material isn't appropriate for high schoolers to recite, but he's offering it in a local theatre. So, now it's in a theatre -- not an activity sanctioned or mandated by the school.

When the school chooses an inappropriate play, it puts everyone in an awkward situation. There are SO many wonderful pieces of literature for a school to choose from -- thousands and thousands and thousands of choices. The list is endless. There is no excuse for choosing a raunchy one.

March 17, 2009 8:20 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Tell us, what "raunchy" things happen in the play in your opinion.

March 17, 2009 8:28 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

He's acknowledging that he can see why the material isn't appropriate for high schoolers to recite,

No he didn't. He said he understands some parents might object to certain lines. He never said the material was not appropriate; that's you twisting his words and meaning away from the facts of what he said, AKA truthiness.

March 17, 2009 8:32 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Y'all remember the controversy in Loudoun County, Virginia, in which a play almost had two boys kissing (almost). Loudoun is kind of a nexus in Virginia for the anti-gay right, and they gathered themselves together, forced the principal to cancel the play, and the Loudoun school board actually changed their policy on school plays to "prevent such things from happening." An embarrasment for the Old Dominion.

None of us has seen this play by Steve Martin, so it's difficult to comment. Is there online information about exactly what these supposed parents found objectionable (I say supposed, because they may be parents of students at the school in the same way that the CRC people are parents of MCPS students; that is, not)? It'd be worth knowing.

March 17, 2009 9:45 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Robert, I believe this play was performed in Montgomery County a few years back. Maybe somebody here remembers that.


March 17, 2009 10:31 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

That's right Jim, it was.

Albert Einstein High School is the MCPS magnet school for the Visual and Performing Arts. Each winter, a handful of seniors are permitted to direct plays. Students are responsible for selecting the material, holding auditions, casting the show, holding rehearsals, coming up with props, set design, lighting, make-up, costumes etc. Every step is under supervision of the Theater Director.

A few years ago, one of the plays selected was "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," and it was performed with no reports of harm to any of the participants or audience members.

You can watch the entire show at Youtube.

Here's a rather good discussion of the play by the Ozark Technical Community College Fine Arts Department here

March 17, 2009 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aunt Bea -- You wanted to know why I called the play "raunchy." Here are some excerpts from a copy of the play that I have. Now remember -- these are high school aged children who are reading these lines (and doing these things -- such as getting undressed down to the girl's bra):

'Middle Man: Twelve years. Twelve years with the wifey. She recently cut her hair short. Looks good. Last night, I put my head between her legs, and it was still paradise. I hope I didn't offend you."

"Picasso: "....well, what does that tell you? It tells me a painter has got to stay well fucked. Otherwise, the mind drifts off the easel, out of the window and across the street to the grocer's daughter."

"Freddy: Maybe. (This pleases her. She takes an article of clothing out of her bag. She turns her back to the audience and unbuttons her blouse, but before she takes it off, she stops and speaks first to Freddy. Suzanne: Look away. (Then to Einstein) You look away too. (She looks at Gaston). I guess you're okay. (She takes off her blouse, revealing a black bra underneath, and puts on a new, sexier top.)"

"Suzanne: See, men are always talking about their things Like it's not them.

Gaston: What things?

Suzanne: The things between their legs.

Gasten: Ah, yes Louie.

Suzanne: See! It's not them; it's someone else. And it's true; it's like some rudderless firework snaking across town. But women have things too; they just work differently. They work from up here. (She taps her head.) So when the guy comes on to me through here, he's practically there already; done. So the next thing I know, he's inside the apartment and I said: 'what do you want?' and he said he wanted my hair, he wanted my neck, my knew, my feet. He wanted the chairs in the room, the notepaper on the the table, he wanted the paint from the walls. He said he wanted deliverance and that I would be his savior. And he was speaking Spanish, which didn't hurt, I tell you. Well, at that point, the word 'no' became like a Polish village (they look at her, waiting, then), unpronounceable. (Proudly) I held out for seconds! Frankly, I didn't enjoy it that much 'cause it was kinda quick."

Gaston: Premature ejaculation?

Germaine: Is there any other kind?"

March 17, 2009 11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops! I forgot to include the follow up to the Spanish scene. I had casually flipped through the book and highlighted certain things that struck me. There might be lots of other things -- I got tired of going through it:

"Suzanne: So then, as I was sitting there half dressed....Oh yeah. That night he came back with this drawing and gave it to me, and we do it again. This time in French. I enjoyed it this time, if you're keeping score."

I got these quotes from casually flipping through the play.

March 17, 2009 12:26 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Oh my barryo, that is some racy stuff all right! (eye roll) You should check out song lyrics if you think these words you posted are "raunchy." Songs are broadcast through the airwaves, no ticket purchase necessary to hear them and no audition required to recite them.

I do not believe there are many 8 year olds enrolled in high schools, where they might win a part in this play and be expected to recite these lines, do you? Other than reciting some words you don't like, the only action on stage you don't like was a girl changing her shirt with her back to the audience. The last time I was at the community swimming pool, I saw a lot more skin on teen and younger girls than someone in a bra and slacks or a skirt with their back turned would show.

"Raunchy", like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

March 17, 2009 4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a difference, Bea, between changing at a pool and stripping. There is a difference between listening to music lyrics, and acting them out. There is a difference between wearing a bikini to the beach, and standing in front of an audience and removing your shirt, down to your bra, while trying to be sexy.

There is no reason in the world that a school should ask a teenager to talk about putting his head between a woman's legs.

March 17, 2009 4:22 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Wow, barryo! You think changing from one blouse to another with your back turned is "stripping?"

It's clear who has "raunchy" in their eyes.

March 17, 2009 4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

poor crazy old Auntie Bea

she's been told the artist know only to her as "barryo" is not commenting on this post and she remains:

a wiiild and crazy old bat!

March 17, 2009 6:55 PM  
Anonymous Derrick said...

Awww, ¡¡Qué adorable! Look at your typo, AnonBigot:

"she's been told the artist know only to her as "barryo"..."

How cute. I guess we´ve both proven we´re human beings (well, I admit that I am at least).

You always have that fake "gotcha!!" attitude and it usually does you more harm than good.

March 17, 2009 7:21 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Anonymouses have been told as long as they refuse to select and stick with a "name," they're all barryo to me.

You think that makes me
a wiiild and crazy old bat
? That's your truthiness again, barryo.

The fact is it shows you are too afraid to be accountable for your own comments.

March 17, 2009 9:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Derrick needs he head checked.

Crazed Bea, I'm just helping you out.

March 17, 2009 9:51 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Anonymoids are like rats: they all look alike, except to one another.

March 18, 2009 11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gayoids are like drunks: they need therapy

March 18, 2009 10:12 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Drunks need therapy all right. Which explains why Bush, who just "quit drinking" but never had any therapy, is such an arrogant screw-up.

March 19, 2009 7:59 AM  

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