Administrators at Washington College have shut down a performance of the award-winning play The Foreigner by playwright Larry Shue after students expressed concern that the show offensively satirizes the Ku Klux Klan.
According to a report by The College Fix, administrators at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, shut down a performance of Larry Shue’s The Foreigner that was scheduled to take place in November. The play was canceled an hour before its final dress rehearsal.
Cassy Sottile, an editor for the Washington College student newspaper, published a report that explained the administration’s motivations for canceling the play. The report suggests that administrators wanted to avoid offending students.
“Out of a desire to prevent further injury to members of the WC community who already feel marginalized, Associate Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance Laura Eckelman decided to cancel the public performances. The decision was made on the evening of Nov. 7, approximately one hour before the play’s final dress rehearsal,” Sottile wrote.
But Sottile suggests that there was nothing problematic with the play. Student activists and administrators, however, remained concerned over the fact that the play featured members of the Ku Klux Klan as antagonists.
“‘The Foreigner’ centers on a group of people who feel “othered” by society in various ways, including premarital pregnancy, neurological differences, and age,” Sottile added. “According to an email sent by the president’s office on Nov. 11, over the course of the play, these individuals build a community through listening, learning, and humor, but their bond is threatened by the xenophobic anger and self-proclaimed entitlement of two other characters.”
Theatre and Dance Department Chair Laura Eckelman said that they attempted to alleviate the administrations’ concerns by proposing changes to the production.
“We discussed many possible interventions that might help to address their concerns, including public content warnings, alterations to the KKK costumes, and a moderated public discussion after each performance, but were unable to find a satisfactory compromise,” Eckelman said in a short comment.
The Foreigner opened Off-Broadway in 1984 to critical acclaim. Hollywood actor Matthew Broderick starred in a revival of the production that took place in 2004.