The school was contracted to present the musical with students in grades 7-12 from March 26-28, 2015. WNEP reports that the school's drama director Dawn Burch said she received an email from South Williamsport principal Jesse Smith citing homosexual themes in the musical comedy as a reason for the cancelation. Burch has been the drama director at the school since 2013.
The WNEP report also states that Smith told Burch via email that homosexuality did not exist in the conservative South Williamsport Community. Both Burch and Smith did not respond to Playbill.com's request for comment.
While he did not specifically address inquiries that Spamalot was canceled over gay content, South Williamsport Area School District superintendent Mark Stamm sent the following statement to Playbill.com. "The drama program includes students from grades 7-12. The performances are open to the public and will include members of the community, families, and children of all ages. We want our performances to be appropriate for the student performers and audiences so that anyone participating or watching can enjoy all aspects of the show."
The musical comedy includes the song "His Name Is Lancelot," a disco-themed production number which reveals that Lancelot "bats for the other team." The character of Prince Herbert is also portrayed as an effeminate homosexual. The two characters later marry in the closing moments of the show.
Parents differed on whether or not the musical was appropriate for a school environment. One student countered principal Smith's reported statements and said that the student body did include kids who identified as LGBT. Gianna Goegard told WNEP, "I'd just seen one of my friends walk with her girlfriend the other day. It's definitely in my school and all around." The school's drama archives indicate that family-friendly productions have been the main fare at South Williamsport with productions of Fiddler on the Roof, Beauty and the Beast, Peter Pan, Harvey and Crazy For You staged in recent years. The school has produced edgier works including Urinetown and two musicals that deal with adult themes, Grease and Pippin, prior to taking issues with the content in Spamalot.
Several schools in recent years have canceled school productions due to what they felt was controversial content including Rent, Legally Blonde, La Cage aux Folles and Sweeney Todd. Click each title to read Playbill.com's coverage of the controversies.
In an update from WNEP July 3, a correction was made stating,"An earlier version of this story mistakenly attributed comments about homosexuality not existing in the community to an email sent by the high school principal. In fact, the email did NOT contain those comments."