The famous artist Roy Lichtenstein once said, “Art has to reveal something we did not know before.”
The Chappell Players certainly succeeded in revealing something.
Unfortunately, what they revealed was something we as a community had already known, the mistakes of both their organization and the administration of St. John’s University.
Whether it was a unanimous decision by the Chappell Players or not, the choice of ‘Hair’ as the fall semester production was unnecessary and exhibited poor judgment.
The group should have anticipated the repercussions of their selection. Not only is the University’s mission diametrically opposed to many of the topics discussed and promoted in the play, but also the group had to alter many of the scenes and lyrics, affecting the original plot.
‘Hair’, by its nature is provocative, controversial and brash. Throughout its history St. John√≠s has discouraged exactly this type of production and the current E-board of the Chappell Players should have taken this into account. Whether or not the censorship is correct, the group still received their funds from St. John’s University in order to hire a professional director, designers and educators.
The concern the administration showed was 100 percent warranted because it was in fact the University’s money that was being spent and the University’s property that was being used. Three performances were available during Family weekend and many visiting parents and siblings had purchased tickets. What parent would want their young child viewing a play laced with sexual innuendoes and references to sodomy, masturbation, pederasty and the Kama Sutra?
Even though the cast only hummed the song that used the aforementioned terminology, when they created signs with certain lyrics they were still crossing the line.
This raises another problem. The administration in charge of the Chappell Players allowed three performances to go on with these signs before they decided to bring down the iron fist. The Chappell Players were told two hours before the Thursday performance that what they were doing was unacceptable. This should have been done much farther in advance.
The talent that flows out of the Little Theater could have been used in a multitude of different ways. If they wanted to focus on a war’s impact on a society, then such musicals as ‘Miss Saigon’, ‘Les Miserables’ and ‘South Pacific’ would all be fine. If they wanted to be risqu√à and push the limits then they could have easily performed at another school or with an independent theater troop.
The University has a Catholic foundation that should be understood and embraced in all aspects and activities.