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‘All Shook Up’ too racy for district; Herriman High show canceled
Community member calls play featuring Elvis Presley songs offensive; kids had been working on previously approved show since September.
By ray parker The Salt Lake Tribune
First Published Jan 02 2013 08:18 pm • Last Updated Jan 02 2013 11:32 pm
Herriman High theater students were told Wednesday their play, "All Shook Up," was too racy and did not conform to a new district policy.
District officials canceled it.
For months, students have been preparing a production of the Broadway musical from 2005 that contains Elvis Presley songs from the 1950s, and is loosely based on William Shakespeare’s "Twelfth Night" from 1602.
"We started in September, it was not a secret, everyone knew about it," said Kat Fishback, a Herriman High sophomore who worked on the production.
Students were informed Wednesday that their musical, which had been approved a year ago, did not conform to a new policy.
The Jordan School Board revised its policy on drama productions in August, shortly after the conservative Utah Eagle Forum condemned students performing "Dead Man Walking" at Bingham High. The group said in a statement the play was filled with profanity, sexual language, racial slurs, political bias and "inappropriate use of biblical teachings."
On Wednesday, Sandy Riesgraf, Jordan district spokeswoman, said one "community member" complained about "All Shook Up." This person filed a complaint just before the school’s winter break, Riesgraf said, so that’s when school administrators reviewed the musical. When the students returned from break on Wednesday, administrators announced the musical was canceled.
"[Administrators] read the play, and there were some aspects of play that could be offensive to some under our new revised policy," Riesgraf said. "We want our drama to be a great experience not just for our students but the theater-goers. We don’t want to offend anyone."
About 700 people attend the high school productions.
Riesgraf said the musical could not be changed to be less offensive because of copyright laws, so it had to be canceled.
"What was communicated to us, they were upset with sexually explicit language and some other aspects of the play," Riesgraf said. "What they deemed cross-dressing."
Parent Jill Fishback said she found nothing offensive about "All Shook Up."
"I’m at a loss," Fishback said. "They’re singing Elvis songs. A girl dresses up as a boy and kisses a boy. ... It’s not promoting homosexuality. It was supposed to be a farce."
Jordan School Board members Leah Voorhies, Rick Bojak, Carmen Freeman and Peggy Jo Kennett, could not be reached Wednesday night for comment.
In July, "All Shook Up" was performed in Orem at the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre, evidently without controversy.
Here is the synopsis of the musical from the SCERA Center website: "The story is all new. The music is all Elvis. In a small Midwest town in the 1950s, Natalie dreams of riding off on her motorbike to find the man of her dreams. Inspired by and featuring the songs of Elvis Presley, this jukebox musical comedy has a leather-jacketed, guitar-playing roustabout who changes everything and everyone he meets in this hip-swiveling, lip-curling fantasy that’ll have you jumpin’ out of your blue suede shoes with a string of Elvis classics including ‘Jailhouse Rock,’ ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ and ‘Love Me Tender.’ "
Under the district’s drama policy, schools can perform Shakespeare’s "Twelfth Night."
"I absolutely do not find [‘All Shook Up’] offensive," Kat Fishback said. "I find it very offensive that they approved ‘Twelfth Night.’ " email@example.com
Jordan Dickison plays Chad and T'Naiha Ellis plays Natalie/Ed in SCERA's production of the Elvis-inspired "All Shook Up" that will play from July 6 to July 21 in Orem at the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre. Credit: Pete Eidfeldt
At a glance:
The Jordan School Board changed its policy on drama productions in August after criticism over Bingham High performing “Dead Man Walking.” In its revised policy, parents have to sign consent forms before their students may participate in plays. Also, more parents will serve on the school and district committees that select which plays to produce.