ANKENY, Iowa — Ankeny High School administrators demanded their spring musical get cancelled after they say parents and students complained about the content. Cast members say the content the school was trying to censor is the LGBTQ main characters.
Now the school is changing its stance and reinstating the production.
“There [is] a line in the musical that is, ‘it’s a terrible ending to a promising beginning,’ and that’s what we really felt,” Ankeny High School senior Elijah Wiklund said.
Late last week, Ankeny High School abruptly cancelled their spring musical, “It Shoulda Been You,” featuring four gay main characters. The decision was made despite scripts already bought and practices already in progress. The school says the cancellation was due to a few parents and students complaining about the productions’ content.
“We felt the school kind of failed us. It’s their job to protect us and make sure their students feel accepted in their school,” Wiklund said. “By shutting it down it really sent a message to a lot of the LGBTQ students that they aren’t accepted and they aren’t good enough to have people like them on stage.”
As of Monday, the school reversed its decision.
“We were able to pull together some of our administration team and have a more in-depth conversation about it,” communications manager for Ankeny School District Samantha Aukes said. “[We] have determined that we can make this play more appropriate for a high school audience and we felt comfortable moving forward with it at this point.”
Wiklund plays one of the gay lead characters and says they had already edited out a couple of scenes that they felt weren’t school appropriate, leaving only one explanation for the censorship.
“It’s because [there is] a gay kiss. We’ve done plays, musicals, where there has been heterosexual kisses and it’s the one we do where there’s a gay kiss that gets the complaints,” Wiklund said.
“If you don’t like that kind of a scene then don’t go to the play, [it’s] as simple as that. [There is] no reason for someone’s prejudice one way to keep everyone else from doing the show and seeing the show,” former Ankeny drama director Cary Shapiro said.
Shapiro was Ankeny’s drama director for 25 years and says he was dismayed after hearing the school’s problem with the production.
“I don’t see, from what I read, a lot of red flags with the show other than the gay and lesbian sideline to it,” Shapiro said. “And if that’s the case, then they should be ashamed of themselves in my opinion.”
But the school says, it was simply a misunderstanding.
“Our misstep was not having a strong line of communication from our team. So the people who were at the table making the decisions didn’t have the full information at the time,” Aukes said.
Shapiro says he applauds all the students for making a stand for themselves the right way.
Wiklund added he’s ecstatic the production is back on, and thanked the school for their willingness to listen to their students.
“Another line in that same song is ‘it’s a perfect ending to a rocky beginning’ and that’s where it is now,” Wiklund said.
The musical’s opening night is set for April 5.