'The show goes on' at Alexandria high school despite controversy

A high school play in Alexandria, Minnesota was almost put on hold because of the language used in it. However, after some compromise, the curtain will rise Friday night.

Backstage at Alexandria Area High School, students are putting the finishing touches on the set for their spring play, “She Kills Monsters.”

But this year, their annual tradition almost didn't take center stage.

“I picked a controversial piece that I thought was going to start some conversations. I just didn't think the conversations would get started before the play opened," said Director Alex Shockley.

Last November, Shockley got approval to put on the play, which is about a young woman who finds out her little sister was bullied for being a lesbian after discovering her deceased sibling's “Dungeons and Dragons” notebook.

But last week, school administrators told Shockley they wanted to change some vulgar language, sexual innuendos and a derogatory term for a lesbian because they are inappropriate for a young audience.

“We were never trying to censor, in our opinion," said Robert Brakke, Assistant Principal of Activities. "We were trying to protect our students from using vulgar language on stage and our audience from having to hear that."

The changes didn't sit well with cast members who were upset school officials didn't read the script before this month, when administrators announced the play was postponed.

But over the weekend, both sides reached a compromise to change some of the language as long as it was approved by the author, Qui Nyguen. Luckily, Nyguen approved it Monday afternoon.

“At first I felt angry about it because at first, to me, it felt like the school wasn't listening, and they were listening more than I thought they were,” said cast member Bianca Wegner.

Overall, Shockley says the controversy turned out to be a teachable moment where everyone involved learned a valuable lesson before even one curtain call.

“At the end of the day it’s been a positive experience. I think not just the students have learned from it, and it’s made an impact and started a lot of conversations about a lot of complex issues,” Shockley said.

School officials say they will change how they approve plays in the future. In the meantime, “She Kills Monsters” will have its opening night on Friday, with three performances over the weekend.