Like So Much Drama

It's a time of reckoning for the theater department at the Denver School of the Arts.

Neither Zullinger nor Johnston would take calls from Westword, but DPS spokesman Mark Stevens says, "I don't think anyone here would tell those kids what to do about their artistic expression. They just can't preach religion. People can't feel as if their tax dollars are going into a performance that would be or could be perceived to take a side."

"The problem with the play," adds Amy Hudson, also speaking for the DPS, "is that students can study any number of things in the classroom, but there is that educational context. The concern with the play is that people could walk in off the street and see that DPS is having the play Everyman without any context. We wanted more context so that people would see it as an academic pursuit."

As it stands now, the play will not be produced this semester because there is not enough time to do it. But Nye says he is planning a new version of Everyman for the spring semester called Everyman on Trial. "It would be a courtroom drama which would address the issue of censorship," he says. "The evidence would be a production of Everyman, and it would end with a public discussion of the issues. The lawyers were comfortable with that concept."

J. Hadley Hooper

Act II, Scene II. The Students: Enter stage right.

For his part, Anti-Defamation League director Saul Rosenthal feels the entire sequence of events was blown out of proportion by everyone involved: the teachers, students, administrators and parents.

"We received a phone call two weeks ago from a relative of a student in the school, and she said to us that they are doing these two plays which may contain inappropriate religious content," he says. Although Rosenthal did call the school to ask for a copy of the script, he never actually talked to anyone and never planned to file any sort of complaint.

"The students start calling us and saying they are angry at us and that they were told that ADL is engaging in censorship and that we are going to sue," he says. "Then they go to the school board and do the same thing. All this time, Mr. Nye is not calling them off or giving them the right information, and we still hadn't even seen the play."

Rosenthal says his organization is interested in maintaining a clear separation of church and state but that he prefers to find a solution that everyone can agree on. "We don't sue anybody," he says, adding that he might not even have an issue with a medieval play like Everyman being performed in a public school.

Rather than Nye being a victim of censorship, the Flanagans and several other people who asked not to be named suggest that he used the students and the media to stage the entire drama at the school when it's possible that the play wouldn't have been cut at all. "There was no censorship going on," says Mike Flanagan. "We are about as anti-censorship people as you can find. This is an issue of an out-of-control drama instructor who got questioned by a DPS lawyer and fanned the flames immediately."

Works of art are cut for lots of reasons, including time and space, Nye says. "We are accustomed to it in the theater," he adds. "A case could be made either way about whether the integrity of the play was maintained. I certainly felt it was, and now it's in a version that will be better appreciated."

Exit. End Act Two.

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