Letter to the Editor: Canceling ‘Urinetown’ is a classic example of judging a book by its cover

Photo from Tuacahn High School for the Arts production of "Urinetown," Ivins, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Tuacahn High School for the Arts, St. George News

OPINION — The following letter was originally submitted to the Iron County School District Board of Education.

As a superintendent, principal and parent, I appreciate the work you do and know that under these incredibly difficult times of COVID and civil unrest, our jobs have never been scrutinized more.

It seems that the fringe groups on either side of the aisle are getting louder and louder and pushing our thinking. Having served in education for close to 20 years and also touring as a professional musician and artist across the country and world for 30 years, I believe in the power of healing that art can have, particularly for our students.

“Urinetown, The Musical” is extremely relevant at this time. I have had the opportunity to see it multiple times, both professional productions as well as student productions. Tuacahn High School for the Arts produced this show last fall. We received criticism from many of our community, and even board members questioned our academic integrity of making important and appropriate choices for our students.

In all of these cases, not one person read the entire script, had listened to the music or had actually seen the production. It was a classic “judge a book by its cover” scenario that we teach students not to do. Many of the complaints were also about “timing,” which unfortunately is a safe statement.

In the case of “Urinetown,” the time could not be more relevant, more important. We work with our teachers each day to have them strive to make the content relevant to students. This was that opportunity for students, teachers and community.

Due to the title of “Urinetown,” the decision was made to do “Mamma Mia,” a Southern Utah staple. This show is about a young lady who has premarital sex with three men during a vacation and gets pregnant by one of them, ultimately not knowing who the father is for years. This is the story that was chosen over one about the importance of humanity during a pandemic.

In our case, we sold out our show and did not receive one complaint. In fact, what we did receive is showerings of “thank-yous” for doing such an appropriate and important show. Our community didn’t understand, and even the writers of the show joked about how the name had the potential to “ruin” it, but our community needed that story and is now more educated and open because of it.

I will always be a supporter of the arts. I will always be a supporter of education. These two worlds often clash. I believe in the power of art to ask questions and provide respice in a way that nothing else can. I believe that our communities are hurting due to the fact that art and music has been “turned off” due to COVID. What our communities need is healing through art. “Urinetown” would have helped that process.

Thank you for what you all do, for the work you dedicate towards children. I sincerely appreciate and empathize with our impossible jobs.

Submitted by DR. DREW WILLIAMS, principal at Tuacahn High School for the Arts.

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

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