Burroughs actually forced an old drama teacher out of town on this one when the kids once decided to stage it off campus — something the local journalists aren’t going to tell you now. And it wasn’t that long ago.
JBHS Drama Presents “The Laramie Project”
The John Burroughs High School Drama department presents The Laramie Project on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, November 17, 18 and 19.
Written by members of the Tectonic Theater Project, The Laramie Project looks at community members’ responses to tragic story of Matthew Shepard, who was kidnapped, badly beaten and left tied to a fence in the middle of the prairie outside Laramie, Wyoming, in October 1998.
The twenty-one-year-old student from the University of Wyoming was not discovered until the next day, and he died several days later in a nearby hospital. Shepard was attacked because he was gay.
Let’s go back a few years…
To be banned in Burbank
‘Laramie Project’ was deemed too much for high school. Now it’s off-campus and on the map.
Trying to stage “The Laramie Project,” a documentary play about the murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard, turned into a saga of its own for the drama students of Burbank’s John Burroughs High School when their principal banned the production and they went ahead with it anyway in an off-campus venue.
Nicole Carothers, a Burroughs senior, says she proposed the show last fall as a joint effort of the drama class and the school’s Gay Straight Alliance. But after winter break, she learned that Principal Emilio Urioste Jr., finishing his ninth year as principal at the 2,600-student campus, had prohibited the play. Drama teacher Scott Bailey says the reason Urioste gave him in January was that it “would tear this community apart,” a claim Urioste denies.
I watched my dream fly out the door,” Carothers said last week. “I couldn’t believe what was happening.”
The worm turned right after they started to look bad all over the world.
Among the supporters now is their principal, who about a month ago told the students they could rehearse at school — and who now says he’d like to see a school production of “The Laramie Project” next year. Urioste says seeing their commitment led to his change of heart. The students note that Urioste appears to have gotten a nudge from Stephen Jimenez, who administers a Los Angeles Unified School District program addressing the problems of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students. Jimenez wouldn’t discuss his conversations with Urioste; the principal said they had “a very good dialogue” that helped him see the matter differently.
“You have that moment when you say, ‘These are great kids and they’re very passionate about this, and I need to support them,’ ” Urioste said. He denied having told Bailey, the drama teacher, that doing the show could “tear this community apart.”
In fact, the principal said, he never had a problem with the play itself, having seen the film of “The Laramie Project” on television before it was proposed as a school play. He considers it “a compelling, thought-provoking, very deep piece.”
There’s was lots of bad publicity for Burbank over this blatant act of censorship and reprisal. Someone even went in and struck the school’s Wikipedia entry on the topic.
And, the BUSD still forced the teacher out…
“There’s more to this than I can get into,” the principal said, when asked why he would ban a play he had no objection to. He noted that he and Bailey have disagreed over the direction of Burroughs’ drama program — Urioste hoping for big musicals that can merge talents from the drama, music and dance departments, while Bailey has stuck to his preference for more intimate and adventurous plays. Urioste recently took away Bailey’s drama assignment for next year, although Bailey will remain on the faculty teaching English. Bailey says he’s challenging the decision with a union grievance.
Urioste said he’s happy, in the end, that the students stood up for their convictions and that the show will go on.
Too bad the teacher did. He immediately lost out.
What hypocrites. If putting on this play was suddenly such a publicly great idea, then how come their teacher was still being disciplined?
Bailey left several months later to teach drama at an exclusive private school in the Valley. And how long did it take for that future school-sanctioned performance to occur?
Oh yeah. “Coach” weighed in on it too:
The decision to switch Bailey’s teaching assignment falls under the school principal’s purview, Burbank school officials said, and some school board members said they were comfortable with the decision.
“I’m not going to second-guess our principals, because they are there every single day,” said Dave Kemp, the school board’s vice president. “They see the big picture.”
Kemp and school board member Debbie Kukta said they could not discuss the specifics of Bailey’s reassignment because it was a personnel issue.
That’s also because they were behind it.