AISD decides UT play is not a good fit for its elementary schools

Bobby Blanchard

UT is looking to perform “And Then Came Tango” for private and charter schools after they reached a decision with Austin Independent School Districts to stop performing the play for the district’s elementary schools.

After UT’s first performance earlier this month, AISD stopped a 10-performance tour so administrators could review whether the play was appropiate for second graders. “And Then Came Tango” is about two male penguins who adopt an abandoned egg, which a young girl steals to make the penguins happy. The original play is based on the real-life events at Central Park in New York, where a zookeeper gave two male penguins an egg to care for.

When AISD first decided to discontinue the tour for further review earlier in October, Brant Pope, head of the theatre and dance department, said it was not made clear to him what AISD’s specific concerns were. After the first play was performed Oct. 16, theatre and dance professor Coleman Jennings emailed Gregory Goodman, AISD’s fine arts director.

“The principal … was very upset by the content,” Jennings said in his email, obtained by an open records request. “She was heard to say if she had known what the play was about she would not have allowed it be at Lee [Elementary School].”

In his response, Goodman said the schools needed more time to prepare for the content of the play.

“Elementary schools typically, most especially in the primary grades, do not delve into human sexuality, religion or other politically hot topics,” Goodman said in his email.

In an interview earlier this month, Pope said UT provided AISD with materials relating to “And Then Came Tango” and was explicit about the play’s content before the first performance. However, in a letter sent from Goodman to Jennings Tuesday, Goodman said UT was not clear enough.

“The underlying message and content delivery was not clearly presented to our school’s principals,” Goodman said.

Cassie Gholston, marketing director for UT’s department of theatre and dance, said because students were performing the play for class credit, UT still wants to give the students a chance to perform the play.

“AISD wanted more time to look at the play,” Gholston said. “For us to be able to move forward for the class, it was best to go ahead and agree jointly with AISD that we wanted to stop the tour.”

Gholston said the decision to discontinue the tour will not cause problems for UT’s relationship with AISD in the future.

“We will continue performing for AISD without any interruption,” Gholston said. “Our expectation is that we will continue putting on tours in the upcoming semesters.”

She said while no performances at private and charter schools have been scheduled yet, UT expects to be performing “And Then Came Tango” soon.

“Several are very interested. Right now it is just a matter of booking and coordinating schedules,” Gholston said. “There is a lot of interest in this play.”

Printed on Wednesday, October 31, 2012 as: AISD says play is unfit for elementary students