On an average afternoon at an Arizona high school, students joined together for an all-school assembly. The school drama club presented a play to the teenagers near the end of the day. Suddenly three hooded men dressed in Ku Klux Klan costumes walked down the aisles. Students sat shocked watching the events unfold. Following the production, parents of the high school expressed outrage for the display of bigotry and hatred at a high school assembly.
According to a report on ABC15 Phoenix, the events went down last week. During an all-school assembly at ASU Preparatory Academy Phoenix, the drama club put on a play called “The Foreigner.”
Near the end of the play, three students wearing full KKK hooded costumes walked down the middle of the aisle to the stage. Several students were outraged seeing the boys in the costumes.
In a highly divisive time in America, symbols that are representative of bigotry and hate-crimes cause many to have visceral reactions. Parents of students at the school say that no one at the school told them ahead of time that the play contained KKK characters.
The play in question, “The Foreigner” is a two-act play by Larry Shue. The play takes place at a rural fishing lodge in Georgia and revolves around two Englishmen named Froggy and Charlie. In the play, Charlie refuses to talk during their stay at the lodge because he’s shy, depressed and upset his wife is ill.
Because Charlie refuses to talk, Froggy tells other guests that Charlie can’t speak English. When guests learn that Charlie doesn’t speak English, they tell him their darkest secrets. Charlie learns about a number of scandals between the guests. One of the scandals revealed in the play is that members in town are part of the KKK.
Due to the KKK characters in the play, “The Foreigner,” has been a controversial choice for high schools around the country. When a high school in Minnesota produced the play last year, the production drew intense criticism from parents and the community.
After photos of the robed castmates appeared in a local paper in New Prague, Minnesota, the high school decided to cancel the production.
In Arizona, the play was a single production during an assembly. Parents appeared most bothered that the school provided them with no information about the contents of the play before the school presented “The Foreigner,” to students.
One parent told ABC15,
“At least inform the parents, give us the ability to make that decision,” the parent said. “The KKK walked into my kid’s school Friday and I didn’t get to stop it.”
The father also said,
“We can talk about racial prejudice, we can talk about the insensitivity, but to have our children put on the robes and assume the characters, it’s wrong…There is no justification for it.”
When ASU Preparatory Academy Phoenix heard about the controversy surrounding the play, the school issued a statement that said:
“Last Friday, high school students in a drama class at ASU Preparatory Academy in downtown Phoenix staged a production of noted American playwright Larry Shue’s “The Foreigner.” The presentation of the play was done during the capstone period of the school day. Students in the class read several plays early in the fall and chose to perform ‘The Foreigner.’ The play portrays an image of members of Klansmen in a brief scene toward the end in which they are made fun of and driven away.
“We apologize if anyone was caught by surprise with the appearance of these characters. We are confident that a fair reading of the text of the play, and a fair interpretation of the intentions of students who performed it, reveals no endorsement of bigotry.”
Other parents didn’t seem as bothered by the production. One parent told the reporter that most of the children at the school are Hispanic.
Whether or not parents are outraged by the production, the negative reaction demonstrates the broader racial tensions the wider public is feeling in the United States. Hate crimes have risen dramatically over the past four years.
A study released this year by Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino indicated that hate crimes increased by 12% last year in the 10 biggest cities in the United States.
With so much hate and violence on display in our news, media and daily lives, perhaps a play that contains members of the KKK isn’t the wisest choice for a high school.
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