- Grove City, Pennsylvania

December 8, 2012

A few cry foul on play choice

'Noises' called inappropriate

By Felicia A. Petro/Senior Reporter
Allied News

GROVE CITY — A few district residents are outraged over an adult-themed play performed by Grove City High School students, but school officials say that it wasn't all that bad.

"Noises Off," a comedy written in 1982, was performed by students before Thanksgiving. The play is about a play called "Nothing On" and the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of the actors involved.

Deanna Bain, a grandmother from Grove City, told school officials Monday she was disappointed the school to allow minors to star in the play. She also wrote a letter to the editor that appears in today's Allied News that she also gave to school administrators, the school board and English teacher, Pat McElroy, who directed the play.

Bain's grandchildren have had "such a wonderful experience in plays" at the middle school, as well as her own kids in the past, she said. "I was so disappointed to see ("Noises") and for high schoolers to have to choose this play. Some decided not to be in it."

One character wore only a slip throughout the play in the Grove City version; more risqué versions on YouTube show the character in a teddy, garter belt, thigh-high stockings, sexy underwear and high heels. A male character also runs around with his pants falling down and there are sexual references in the script.

"It's highly inappropriate for high school students to perform in underwear. I think it was uncalled for," Bain told the board at its workshop meeting.

Her 14-year-old grandson - a freshman - did lighting for the play but wasn't in the cast.

"I'm glad he wasn't chosen to be in ("Noises")," she said in a separate interview. "Students are to be taught respect and morals. Just because they watch this on TV, doesn't mean they have to perform it on stage."

When hearing the stir about the play from parents and students, Bain said she wanted to "see it for myself" and sat with her 10-year-old grandson close to the front of the stage at the high school auditorium to watch the play. A woman sitting next to her "was very upset about it also," she said.

Her 13-year-old granddaughter saw the play with friends, but didn't like it, Bain added. "I asked my 10 year old (grandson) if he liked it. He says, 'no' because a lot went over his head because of the plot of the whole thing," Bain added.

However, she felt the students did a "remarkable job with choreography and the delivery of lines," she said. "I just feel sorry for them, the audience and the younger brothers and sisters that the plot was chosen. I feel sorry they were put in that position. I think it could have been more family appropriate."

"I don't understand why you'd put this on 14,15, 16-year-old children," she said.

Esther Falcetta, a parent who attended Monday's meeting, agreed with Bain's sentiments.

She and her husband met with McElroy and the high school principals to express similar concerns about "Noises Off."

"We've had three productions that have had immoral overtones," Falcetta said. "I think what we're doing in our community is contributing to the desensitization of the American culture with our youth. It's creating terrible consequences."

Falcetta talked to other parents who were "very disturbed by the whisky bottle, the slip the young woman wore ... and cast members took liberties with script. That's a copyright violation," she said.

"If we are going to teach our kids what we say we believe and what are values are, we should not have those kind of productions in the district. It should be taken very seriously. It's not art for the sake of art."

Principal Rae Lin Howard said after the board meeting that she did not want to comment whether to play, which she said was one of the top 10 plays produced by high schools around the country, is appropriate or not for minors.

"Art is the way you take it," she said. However, Howard said McElroy toned down the script with copyright permission.

"I think the kids did a nice job," she said. "A lot of parents helped behind the scenes. Mr. McElroy received lots of positive comments on the play. You only hear the negative comments here (at the board meeting)."

She noted that the high school has a set design elective, not theater arts. If students didn't want to work on a play, they wouldn't be forced to do it.

McElroy was made aware of the Bain's and Falcetta's positions. "We asked him to take this information into consideration," Howard said.

However, the teacher has artistic freedom at the school. "He's the person we've hired to oversee the theater program," Howard added. McElroy provided copies of the scripts to students and parents, who didn't appear to be concerned.

McElroy did not return a phone call for comment.

Some students laughed at Bain and others over their reaction to "Noises Off" because they think "we're old fashioned and we need to 'get with the times,'" her 14-year-old grandson told her.

Bain's "main objection," she said, is forcing young people to choose between a play and their morals. "That's not fair," she added.

"Teenagers have enough of a hard road to hoe without adults making them have these kinds of positions," she told the board.

Published Dec. 5, 2012, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201A Erie St., Grove City.