The principal's decision to cancel the performance came after students had already begun rehearsing the play at Maiden High School in Maiden, NC. According to wsoctv.com, students say parents, as well as local churches, expressed complaints to the school that the play featured a same-sex couple among its characters.
The 2004 play, written by actor-playwright Cariani and depicting a mythical town in northern Maine, was the most-produced play in American high schools in 2010.
The school's principal, Rob Bliss, later released a statement that read: "Our faculty and staff are still in review of potential performances to be conducted by our students this fall. At this time, no final decision has been made regarding whether and what drama performances are to be presented this fall. In regards to the request for students to perform the play 'Almost Maine,' careful review and consideration was given to the contents of this play. The play contained sexually-explicit overtones and multiple sexual innuendos that are not aligned with our mission and educational objectives.
"As principal of Maiden High School, I have an obligation to ensure that all material, including drama performances is appropriate and educationally sound for students of all ages."
Bliss has not responded to a Playbill.com request for an interview about the cancellation. Cariani's statement follows:
"On October 15th, 2014, Maiden High School in Maiden, North Carolina canceled a production of Almost, Maine. School administrators say it's because the play contains 'sexually-explicit overtones and multiple sexual innuendos that are not aligned with [the school's] mission and educational objectives.' Students affiliated with the production say it's because of a scene in the play called 'They Fell' in which two young men — literally — fall in love with each other.
"I recognize that gender and sexuality issues are complicated for a public school to navigate. However, parents and administrators at Maiden High School should rest assured that Almost, Maine has been presented at nearly 2,000 educational institutions all over the country with great success and without incident.
"They should also rest assured that the scene in question, 'They Fell,' contains no swearing and no physical contact. It's a sweet, chaste, funny scene that explores the precise moment when a couple of young people — both of whom happen to be guys — fall in love. 'They Fell' asks audiences to consider the wonder of falling in love—which is not something anyone chooses to do. It just happens. And when a young person happens to fall in love with a person of the same sex, and they're from a place like Presque Isle, Maine (my hometown) or Maiden, North Carolina, joy doesn't typically follow. Fear and self-loathing — the roots of homophobia — follow.
"If Maiden High School administrators take issue with 'They Fell' because it's about two young men who are simply stating their feelings for one another, they are calling into question the validity of same-sex love by making it seem wrong and different and other. They are allowing a dangerous cycle of fear and self-hatred among LGBTQ youth to continue, and, consequently, they are tacitly promoting homophobia. This is simply not necessary. Nor is it helpful. We don't need any more Tyler Clementis or Jamey Rodemeyers and Jamey Hubleys. We need kids to know that it'll 'get better.' Falling in love is tough enough when you're young. Let's remove the stigma of falling in love with someone of the same sex.
"Most important, we should all remember that the kids who spearheaded the production of Almost, Maine are the ones who will lose here. As I understand it, the Maiden High School production of the play was to be a student-run endeavor. By canceling the play, it seems to me that school officials are pleasing parents and pillars of the community rather [than] serving the students. I think there's a better solution than to stop the production. I hope that Maiden High School will find a way to contact me and/or Dramatists Play Service to see what we can do to allow the show to go on for the good of all involved."
An online petition supporting the production has been started online. As of Oct. 20, 1,894 people had signed it.
The cancellation of Almost, Maine follows a similar event at a PA high school, which stopped a production of the Tony Award-winning musical Spamalot due to gay content within the plot.