L.A.’s St. Genevieve, known for it’s stellar performing arts department, confronts “morality” protestors with dignity, courage and conviction.
By Elia Esparza
Having grown up my entire life enamored with musicals, I find this story particularly disturbing. As a young child the film that influenced my future career goals was West Side Story. And, watching Rita Moreno as Anita was cathartic for me. I came home and told my mother, “I want to work in whatever it takes to make movies.” So imagine my horror, when someone dear to me, a teenager and aspiring performing arts major, called to tell me about how people were trying to sabotage her high school’s production of Bob Fosse’s 1972 ground-breaking, Oscar winning musical, Cabaret.
Recently, the daughter of a close friend (sister close) called me and said, “Tia, our production of Cabaret is being attacked by protestors.” She was upset, but not because they were protesting. No, my girl is a bright young lady who knows as Americans we have the right to protest about anything we disagree… but she was upset more with the fact that she and her peers were being personally attacked with degrading posters, images of abortions, and signs with demeaning messages aimed at the students, staff, church and parents. “They are hurting us the students,” she told me. “And, for them to call our wonderful teachers horrible names is very upsetting for us.”
Folks, this is bullying plain and simple. Bullying. These morality protestors who believe this is the only way to pursue their quest in family values are inflicting child abuse by terrorizing them with appalling images. In my book, this is called brainwashing. How can these protestors inflict the same type of damage that they say to be preventing?
Before I go on, protestors did not prevail in getting the school to cancel the production. Show opens April 25th on Thursday night at 7PM and runs through Saturday, April 27th, which will have a Matinee 2PM and evening 7PM. Tickets can be purchased online: http://store.valiantspirit.com
About St. Genevieve Catholic High School
Its doors opened in 1959 with the first graduating class accepting their diplomas in 1963. Since then, thousands of young men and women have graduated. St. Genevieve’s Performing Arts department is as good as the best performing arts high schools in the nation. I know this is why my niece worked hard to get accepted… she was impressed with the school’s history with live-theatre productions and knew this is where she would get an excellent arts education to prepare her for UCLA. The caliber of performances and professionalism of performers is one that Los Angeles is proud of and has enjoyed love and support from the community for many years.
So, why would the school approve a production like Cabaret where the main characters sin? I think what one parent of an 11th grader at St. Genevieve wrote captures its best:
“My daughter was accepted for ninth grade at public schools that were rating very high in academics but stopped offering sports and arts because of funding cuts. One factor that convinced us to choose SGHS was its theater arts program. She has been involved in every play since ninth grade. This year, she’s a Cabaret cast member and involved in other extracurricular activities at school while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Protesters’ idea that because SGHS is showing Cabaret, it espouses abortion, extramarital sex and other behavior that runs counter to the teachings of the Catholic Church, is far from the truth. By presenting this play, the school is opening the minds of students that making the wrong choices in life has consequences. The subject is discussed intelligently within the confines of a Catholic school under the guidance of qualified teachers and counselors. When sex education was introduced, did it mean the school was espousing early sex and its unwanted consequences?”
Pro-life activists have invaded the exterior property of St. Genevieve and are aggressive with their antics. Shame on them! Bravo to the students who despite enduring such mean-spirited behavior by these activist adults, they press on with their production.
According to a petition signed by 150 people from across the nation, states “’Cabaret’ endangers the souls of the children participating, who will be performing grave acts of indecency, immodesty, immorality, and homosexual behavior on stage, contrary to Catholic faith and moral teachings.” St. Genevieve officials concede that Cabaret tackles controversial themes, but insist that it doesn’t glorify them. Ultimately, they say, the show teaches students that actions have consequences and that – contrary to the lyrics of the title song – life isn’t a cabaret.
“We are using the characters’ lives to teach our students to respect life, to value abo e all their own God-given lives,” said Principal Dan Horn in a letter posted on the school’s website. “Cabaret does not celebrate immorality; it’s a cautionary tale about the dangers of immorality.”
While some of the elements in the original production may be deemed vulgar or racy,” Horn says. “St. Genevieve version will be staged ‘in good taste’ with costumes and dance moves appropriate for high school students.
My niece is more determined than ever to keep her love of arts above the fray. “It’s all about being professional,” she told me. When she decided that makeup and wardrobe should have a trailer, she wrote to Star Waggons, sharing her school production’s challenges. It didn’t take long Star Waggons (http://www.starwaggons.com) to tell her they would be providing the trailer for the Cabaret production’s use! She also took money from her savings to purchase six director’s chairs. “We’ve worked so hard, and our directors and stars deserve a chair. We are a production as good as the best you’ll find at the Shubert or LATC,” she said beaming with enthusiasm.
With the difficult economic pressures that we have suffered and continue to suffer nationwide, every time school budgets are cut the main programs affected are performing arts and athletic. St. Genevieve has a strong focus on performing arts and that means exposing their students to a multitude award winning productions. “If the students feel the material will help them advance in their craft,” said one parent, “Then why try to limit their creativeness? As a parent, we have made sure to raise our child to believe in God, the teachings of the Catholic church and she knows that her talent is God-given and it should be nurtured. She knows right from wrong and we’re very proud of the way she has defended her school and the decision to produce Cabaret.”
As much as the protestors would like to turn time back to the 1950’s when ‘pretending’ was an art form, I for one appreciate and applaud St. Genevieve standing behind their students, performing arts department and staff and not censoring what productions certain groups deem appropriate. Trying to censor a true artist is like clipping their wings.
“We know about the issues we are dealing with in this show,” said Horn, “and are mature enough to understand and face these issues in an adult manner because we know God, live with honor, and are trying to change the world one step at a time.”
Buy online tickets here, http://store.valiantspirit.com. All online ticket sales are held at will call. •No mail out of tickets. •Advanced ticket sales: General: $18.00 / Student: $15.00 / Senior Citizen: $15.00. •At the door ticket prices: General: $20.00 / Student: $18.00 / Senior Citizen: $18.00.
“It’s like our principal says, Tia,” my niece reminded me, “we’re smart enough to know that ‘life is NOT a cabaret.”
Congrats to the cast and crew of St. Genevieve’s Cabaret! It takes courage to stand up to bullies!