Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong Calls Canceled American Idiot Production "Censorship"

News   Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong Calls Canceled American Idiot Production "Censorship" Billie Joe Armstrong, frontman for the rock group Green Day and composer of the Broadway musical American Idiot, said it is a "shame" that a Connecticut high school has canceled a production of the musical over its "mature content."

The Enfield High School Lamplighters in Enfield, CT, had scheduled American Idiot as its spring musical for this May. According to documents gathered by blogger Howard Sherman, on Jan. 17, as auditions were being scheduled for the mid-May production of the musical, faculty director Nate Ferreira sent an email to the school community announcing, "Due to the mature content of the original production," "a very small number of extremely vocal people have complained about our choice of production." He said the complaints led to school principal Andrew Longey "to discuss a change in our choice of production." As a result, "I do feel that is best for us to set aside American Idiot for the time being."

Billie Joe Armstrong
Billie Joe Armstrong

Based on the band Green Day's album of the same title, American Idiot tells the story of three young men who try to find meaning in their lives despite living in what they see as the moral, intellectual and emotional wasteland of the early 21st century. The show includes expletives and depictions of drug use and sex. It ran on Broadway 2010-11, earning three Tony Award nominations including Best Musical. It won for Best Scenic Design and Best Lighting Design.

Ferreira claimed he was trying to rewrite the script in cooperation with Music Theatre International, the play's licensing organization.

Armstrong, who co-wrote the show, posted a response on Instagram Jan. 26, saying, in part, "It has come to my attention that you cancelled your high school theater production of American Idiot. I realize the content of the Broadway production of AI is not quite 'suitable' for a younger audience. However there is a high school rendition of the production and I believe that’s the one Enfield was planning to perform which is suitable for most people. It would be a shame if these high schoolers were shut down over some of the content that may be challenging for some of the audience. but the bigger issue is censorship. this production tackles issues in a post 9/11 world and I believe the kids should be heard. and most of all be creative in telling a story about our history. I hope you reconsider and allow them to create an amazing night of theater!"

The New York Times reported Jan. 26 that the school now plans to do Little Shop of Horrors instead. That same day, Ferreira, in an email to Sherman, said in part: "As with any show that would require edits for a high school group, I had a full list of changes that I felt were necessary to the dialogue, and they would have had to meet approval by the publisher. I made several phone calls to MTI during the past year, and their staff were extremely helpful in explaining the procedures for requesting edits. I stand by my decision to change our choice of production, and I have always felt that the school administration has been supportive of our efforts."

Arts advocate Sherman, former executive director of the American Theatre Wing, is director of The Arts Integrity Initiative at the New School in New York and blogs under his own name at HESherman.com. He writes frequently about issues of censorship and those who attempt to rewrite playwrights' work without permission.

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