A student actor's posting of a photo showing fellow cast members in costumes — Ku Klux Klan garb — prompted the cancellation of a play scheduled for this weekend that was being put on by New Prague High School students, the principal said Monday in an e-mail to students and parents.
An image that made the rounds over the weekend on social media showed the stage with students in the white robes and pointed hoods favored by the KKK, whose long-fought and violent campaign against blacks in the United States has come to symbolize racism in this country.
"I think you're gonna want to come to the spring play" were the words on the bottom of the photo, referring to the production scheduled for Friday and Saturday nights.
"On Friday afternoon, [an] NPHS student involved in the play posted a captioned photo on social media of some fellow cast members in KKK costumes that are used in the final scene … to depict an evil force" in the play titled "The Foreigner," said the e-mail signed by Principal Lonnie Seifert and Assistant Principal Tom Wetschka.
"Administration was made aware of the posting, and the insensitive nature of this post," the e-mail continued.
The post's lack of context made the photo and accompanying words troubling, Seifert said Monday.
While the KKK members depicted in the play are portrayed as ignorant and closed-minded villains who lose out in the end, the principal said "that message was lost with the post."
He said staff met with students who were offended and understand there are "students and adults who are uncomfortable with that part of history." Seifert said there are 12 black students among the 1,300 or so teens attending the school.
The principal's e-mail explained that "as we reviewed the social media post and conducted meetings with our theater director and concerned community members, we feel it is in the best interest of New Prague Area Schools to not present the show this weekend."
The principal and his assistant said in the e-mail that the decision to cancel will be followed up by discussions among students, staff and others "as we continue to work at embracing a culture of acceptance and respect for all students" within the school district.
"The Foreigner" is a two-act comedy by American playwright Larry Shue that is set in a fishing lodge in rural Tilghman County, Ga., where two Englishmen arrive as guests. One of them soon discovers scandals among some of the residents of the lodge.