Duval County

Broadway playwright calls DCPS cancellation of Indecent play ‘censorship’ and ‘totalitarianism’

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Pulitzer prize-winning playwright spoke to Action News Jax’s Ben Becker about her Broadway play, which was banned by the Duval County School District for containing LGBTQ sexual overtones.

Action News Jax first reported about the district cancelling a local production of “Indecent,” which was supposed to be performed by students at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts.

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The Broadway play is about censorship, which makes the decision by the district all the more ironic, according to supporters of the play.

“I’m outraged as a playwright and a citizen,” said Paula Vogel, who wrote the Tony Award winning play and is a former Florida educator.

A social media post by theatre student Madeline Scotti went viral where she announced the play had been banned and that the district is “trying to tell us this play is dirty immoral, obscene and indecent” and went on to say, “‘Indecent is a queer Jewish love story.”

“Indecent” is about the censorship of another play called “God of Vengeance during the rise of hate against Jews in 1923. It resulted in the arrest and conviction of the cast and producer on obscenity charges. It also included a lesbian couple in its story, and has the first ever kiss onstage between lesbians in American theatre.

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The school district told Action News Jax in a statement that the play contains “adult sexual dialog that is inappropriate for student cast members and student audiences.”

“My question is this: Is the content too mature for students or too mature for the school board?” Vogel said. “In my mind this is censorship.”

The school produced Rent in 2021, which depicts a number of gay relationships, but that was before Florida passed the “Parental Rights in Education” law last July, otherwise known as the “don’t say gay” bill, which has caused concern among the theatre community and beyond.

“They do feel the ‘do not say gay law’ was written in such an oblique, unclear manner that it strikes fear into heart of every student and every educator,” said Vogel.

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Becker emailed the office of Gov. Ron DeSantis to ask about the bill since he supported it and asked if it censors free expression.

A spokesperson said “These types of decisions are made at the local level, and as such, do not involve the Governor’s office.”

“I do think this is the perfect collision between homophobia, Anti-Semitism and the notion we police our students in a move towards a totalitarianism,” Vogel said. “That’s what I think this is.”

Vogel told Becker that she is working with other members of the Broadway play and hopes to find another place in Jacksonville to hold the Douglas Anderson production.