Apparently, some parents were concerned over the play's content - specifically sexual references and profanity - and its setting in a bar. At a school board meeting, they expressed concern that the content would preclude them from coming to see it.
That prompted a great retort from teacher and director Kevin Cahill, who noted that the meeting drew a bigger crowd than school plays. “Let’s be honest here. You have not been coming (to the plays),’’ Cahill said.
Good for you, Mr. Cahill! Let's hope whatever noncontroversial show you put on next draws a sellout crowd.
Now I'll admit I've never read Picasso at the Lapin Agile, so I don't know how appropriate or inappropriate it is for 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds. But here's Martin's description from a letter he wrote to the LaGrande Observer:
"Focusing on Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity and Picasso’s master painting, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” the play attempts to explain, in a light-hearted way, the similarity of the creative process involved in great leaps of imagination in art and science. Pablo Picasso, as a historical figure, does not come gift-wrapped for the sensitive. He lived as he painted, fully sexual and fully daring, and in the play he is chastised by a sage bartendress for his cavalier behavior toward women."It's a fair letter. Martin says he understands why some parents might object to some of the dialog being uttered by teenagers. Still, he believes that the play can be an uplifting experience.
"I do believe that the spirit of the play and its endorsement of the arts and sciences are appropriate for young eyes and minds." Seeing it "may help them to understand the potency, power and beauty of the arts and sciences."
As a result, Martin offered to pay for a nonprofit, off-campus production, "so that individuals, outside the jurisdiction of the school board but within the guarantees of freedom of expression provided by the Constitution of the United States, can determine whether they will or will not see the play, even if they are under 18."
So LaGrande residents, and anyone else, can see the students' production of Picasso at the Lapin Agile at Eastern Oregon University, May 16-18. Sadly, Cahill says that Martin won't be able to attend.
But never fear: "His presence will be palpable even if he can't come," Cahill tells Entertainment Weekly. "We will leave a seat open to him in the middle of the front row."