Discussion continues over 'mature content' of fall musical

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CLOQUET SCHOOL BOARD

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Tuesday's Cloquet School Board saw the continuation of points brought forward from the previous meeting, such as increased traffic safety requests at the newly constructed middle school, as well as an extended discussion over the upcoming fall musical.

Continued concern over the content of the Cloquet High School fall musical "Legally Blonde" was the dominating issue of the night's meeting, enough so that the board elected to have it brought to the beginning of the meeting.

Cloquet High School Principal Warren Peterson praised the cast and crew, saying "They're talented, passionate, and really good at what they do." He also expressed his disappointment at the unfortunate situation they were in.

Because of concerns over the mature content of the production, a parent group was assigned the task of going over the script for the play to make suggestions and recommendations that would make the production more in tune with the expected audience, as well as for the performers.

Normally, a play or musical goes through a vetting process before any casting or rehearsals begin. This ensures that the production in question lines up content-wise with what the school thinks is acceptable. For reasons that weren't explained, that vetting process did not happen during the selection of "Legally Blonde," a point the board voiced their disapproval over.

It is a popular modern high school musical, however. Based on the movie, "Legally Blonde," the play follows the transformation of sorority girl and fashion major Elle Woods as she follows her college sweetheart to Harvard Law School. Once there, she tackles stereotypes, snobbery, scandal and realizes her true potential.

Brett Loeb, a parent of one of the cast members, suggested publicizing that the content of the play may not be suitable for everyone, going as far as to possibly assign a PG-13 rating. Loeb said if the content were made public ahead of time, people could show their support or opposition in a more tangible way.

"Let them vote with their dollars," he said.

Molly Stone, a member of the parent advisory group and the mother of a cast member, cited the importance of finding a middle ground between ensuring the content is delivered appropriately for all ages without compromising the identity and message of the play.

"It's difficult to read the script and get the gist of it." Stone said, referencing that the script is only a facet of the whole play, with music, costumes, and choreography all playing a part in how the messages are relayed to the audience. With that in mind, the parent group is hoping to ensure a PG rating for the play.

The Duluth Playhouse teen theater presented a very tasteful run of the same musical this summer. Stone indicated that the Duluth production influenced the changes that the Cloquet parent group suggested.

Though the parent group has spent the last several weeks poring over the script, the director of the musical, Landon Hall, has yet to see any of the suggested changes.

The school board elected to organize a meeting between Hall and the parent group, as well as to have continued supervision of the rehearsals by Peterson.

Peterson stated that he and the school board are hopeful these decisions will allow the musical to move forward, and that the cast and crew will be able to show the community all of the hard work they have done this November.

Hall is also optimistic about the process.
"My team and I are very eager to start working closely with the parent group and to move forward with the show and allow our extremely talented kids to put on a show that they're proud of," he told the Pine Journal. "We are positive that this show and its message will be one that the community will love!"

In other matters Monday, during the work session before the meeting, the school board addressed discussions of safety, with a request from Cloquet Middle School Principal Tom Brenner to hire additional crossing guard staff for the busy periods just before and after the school day.

Talks are also underway for a four-way intersection on Washington Avenue, as well as a crosswalk from the high school to Sahlman Avenue, and a sidewalk on the east driveway to the high school.