A University of Texas play about two male penguin parents has ruffled feathers at the Austin school district, prompting the cancellation of 10 scheduled performances at Austin elementary schools.
Written by UT theater graduate student Emily Freeman, “And Then Came Tango” is a play about Roy and Silo, real penguins at New York’s Central Park Zoo who were given a fertilized egg and raised the hatchling, Tango, together.
UT students first performed the play for second-graders at Lee Elementary School in Central Austin in October. District officials raised concerns about age appropriateness and suspended the play, finally canceling it at the end of the month.
This is the first time the district has canceled a UT performance.
Still, after the first show at Lee Elementary on Oct. 16, the tour was put on hold when school administrators, particularly Lee Elementary’s principal, expressed concern that the play contained themes of “sex and sexuality.” The tour was immediately stopped to allow for review by AISD principals and administrators.
While many in AISD supported the play, the district’s leaders became consumed by gridlock, throwing into doubt the possibility of a resolution.
With four cancelled performances, unresponsive AISD representatives and a semester quickly slipping away, the Theatre and Dance faculty needed to ensure that the UT theatre students in the production still had a chance to tour. They made the tough call to cancel the remaining AISD shows and focus on finding private schools, charter schools and non-AISD schools that would have us.
This is interesting because I have heard that parents from Lee Elementary school didn’t even know there was a problem (the parent of a child there that I personally know didn’t know until they read about it in the Statesman). And there, as far as I can tell, no community discussion about this before a decision was reached.
The argument from Jonathan Saenz, president of the conservative Texas Values group, about why he backs AISD’s decision: “We define marriage very clearly in the state of Texas. So if you have a play that tries to push and promote a different marriage definition, which is clearly illegal, it leads students to ask questions about it, and it leads to the discussion of sex.”
First, his idea of what is “illegal” is wrong. Second, why do homophobes always assume that if elementary school children hear about love between two people, they will immediately think of sex? Third, why are conservatives so terrified of questions?
I’m very angry about this. I’m a homeowner and I pay taxes that go to AISD. I will have a child attending AISD schools very soon. I also am anti-discrimination, pro-love, pro-empathy, pro-diversity, pro-learning.
My friend, CH, who is VERY knowledgeable about local Austin politics, especially education, has given me the following ways to contact people at AISD to tell them that their decision was NOT OKAY (perhaps you will want to use the word “homophobic” in your email):
Meria Carstarphen: email@example.com
The director of fine arts, Gregory Goodman: firstname.lastname@example.org
The director of public relations, Alex Sanchez: email@example.com
And here is the list of the current AISD board members: http://archive.austinisd.org/inside/board/members.phtml. Their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please spread the word. Write an email. This really is unacceptable.
And here is a penguin GIF: