A high school drama teacher in Glen Burnie, Md., barred by school elders last week from staging a santized version of "Hair", was told yesterday that his substitute choice -- "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" -- also may be banned.
After Old Mill High School officals told 26-year-old teacher Arthur Smelkinson that the 1960s anti-war musical was too controversial and that it encouraged drug use and sexual permissiveness, he decided to stage a version of Ken Kesey's 1962 novel about rebellion inside a mental institution.
The show may not go on.
Just as tryouts were set to begin yesterday morning, School principal Leroy G. Carter abruptly canceled them, saying he had not approved of the script.
"It's absurd," Smelkinson said yesterday.
The teacher said the play is performed "all over the country" by colleges and high schools. Smelkinson said he also inked out several four-letter words and obscenities in the script, which was being reviewed by the principal.
Last week's censorship of "Hair" attracted national media attention to the 2,300-student school and to Carter, who said yesterday he's been "plagued to death" over the controversy.
"I don't have time to sit around reading novels and plays all day," Carter grumbled."And I don't want to become a censor."
Smelkinson said "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" is on the public high school's approved reading list and therefore should be suitable for the spring production.
Arlene Shively, treasurer of the parents and teachers association at Old Mill, said yesterday that "from what I've heard, it (the play) is sort of depressing."
Shively, who strongly objected to "Hair" because of "the language, the glorification of drugs" and because she did not think it "really necessary at this time to go into burning of draft cards" has not read "Cuckoo's Nest."
"From what I've heard," she said, "things are not favorable for that one either."
Meanwhile, the Old Mill "Thespians" are two weeks overdue on rehearsals and tempers are starting to flare.
"I think we're being treated very unfairly," said 16-year-old Buddy Deese. "Even the teachers can't believe what's going on."
Brad Bechtel, 14, said he was all ready to try out for one of the parts in "Cukoo's Nest" when he heard the bad news. "I'm really upset," he said yesterday. "It's not a bad play."
"Cuckoo's Nest" champions the "antihero" Randle P. McMurphy, who organizes the inmates of an Oregon insane asylum against the torturous reign of Nurse Ratched. In the end, McMurphy is forced to submit to a partial frontal lobotomy.
The film version won four Academy Awards in 1976 and was voted by the American Film Institute as one of the 10 best movies ever made.
Smelkinson said he did not know what he would do if school officials decided "Cuckoo's Nest" was not fit for the high school stage. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," he sighed.