By Gordon Anderson | firstname.lastname@example.org
When the students at SanLee Middle School spoke up and said they wanted a drama club and to start putting on stage productions, the administration listened.
“We’re very student-driven here,” said SanLee Principal Natalie Kelly. “We teach our children to advocate for themselves, and what they said they wanted was a drama club, they wanted to do a play.”
So, working with a drama instructor, Kelly and the administration gauged interest school-wide and found more than 100 students who wanted to participate. It wasn’t long before the club landed on “Almost, Maine,” a 2004 production written by playwright John Cariani which explores themes of love through nine vignettes containing two characters each. Until this week, auditions were scheduled for February 7 and 8, with performances on the calendar in early May.
The auditions and the performances will go on. But due to some backlash on social media, including from one member of the Lee County Board of Education, the play at SanLee won’t be “Almost, Maine.” Instead, the students will learn and perform Linday’s Price’s “Oddball,” which is described as “a vignette play that embraces the odd. Odd jobs, odd socks, odd one out, odd reactions and odd boyfriends.”
“I was made aware of some social media conversations about the performance selection. The version (of “Almost, Maine”) I reviewed was a middle school version that was adjusted to be age appropriate, and I didn’t see any problems with the content” she said. “With that being said, I didn’t want anything to overshadow our kids or to take anything away from what they’re doing, so I made the decision to to select another play. There just doesn’t need to be any negativity around this.”
Republican school board Member Chris Gaster complained Tuesday in a Facebook post that the play included “sexual content” and that “individuals of the same sex admire and kiss each other” in the show.
Also, a post about the matter in the closed “Ladies of Sanford” Facebook group on Tuesday questioning the appropriateness generated more than 80 comments over two days.
“Almost, Maine” has come under fire elsewhere, largely over one of its vignettes titled “They Fell.” The original version of that script focuses on two friends of the same sex who realize their romantic feelings for one another (there are different versions for men and women). The script does not, however, call for the characters to kiss, and the characters do not kiss in YouTube videos of performances of the scene:
The script for “Almost, Maine: The Middle School Edition,” is rewritten to make the characters opposite sex. There is no kiss in that version of the script either.
Gaster’s post about the matter came around 1 p.m. Tuesday, days after SanLee announced the production in a now deleted Facebook post. Around 5:30 p.m. the same day, SanLee announced on Facebook that it would instead stage “Oddball.”
The Rant reached out to Gaster by email to ask if he’s read the script for “Almost, Maine,” and if he was aware that SanLee’s proposed performance would be based on the script’s Middle School Edition. We’ll update this story with any response we receive.