Student Play on Iraq Canceled Over Controversy

ByABC News via logo

March 25, 2007 — -- In a small Connecticut town, a big controversy erupted when a principal canceled a play written by high school students about the war in Iraq.

Theatre students at Wilton High School in Wilton, Conn., fear they'll never perform their play "Voices in Conflict," which they developed from first-person stories of soldiers serving in Iraq.

"We thought it would be a good way to inform students in an unbiased way what was going on with the war and open their eyes," Wilton senior Afton Fleming told "Good Morning America Weekend Edition."

Update: The students finally got to perform their play -- Off Broadway. Get the latest Saturday, June 16, on "World News." Check local listings for air time.

Senior Seth Koproski said the play is not about politics.

"We didn't want to spew propaganda," Koproski said. "We wanted to create a discussion."

They certainly did that. The first draft included the story of 19-year-old Pvt. Nicholas Madaras, a Wilton native who was killed in Iraq at the start of the school year. Madaras' sister still attends Wilton High.

When Gabby Alessi-Friedlander, whose brother Zach is in Iraq now, read the script, she thought it insulted American soldiers, including her brother.

"I at least view educating people as showing all sides to a story, not just just reciting word for word all the negative," she said. "[It's] about showing all sides ... but not just one."

Her mother Barbara Alessi agreed.

"I think it's the least we owe to the people who have their lives on the line, to give them a balanced view of what they are achieving," Alessi said.

Alessi complained to the school principal, Timothy Canty, and he agreed the play had no place in his school.

"We're not part of the entertainment industry. We are an educational institution and we're held to a higher standard," Canty said. "We have to make sure we don't express any bias ... that we are exposing students to all points of view.

So "Voices in Conflict' was silenced. The young actors, who performed "The Crucible" earlier this year found themselves at the center of a free speech firestorm. They tried to rewrite the script, but school officials ultimately decided the subject was just too raw.

"I know it was a tough call," said junior James Presson. "They made the safe choice, but it was also the wrong one."

The students have received offers from people across the country willing to host the play at other venues, but the students are still hoping the principal will change his mind. They see this as an educational project and believe it should be seen at their school.

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