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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended November 03, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 30Oct00

By Kent Larsen

Mormons Oppose 'Godspell' At Ogden, Utah High School

OGDEN, UTAH -- News that a group of Mormon parents in Ogden, Utah have forced Ogden High School to scale back and postpone a planned production of the musical "Godspell" has made newspapers outside of Utah. The high school changed the production from a school-sponsored play, paid for with state money, to a student drama club production, paid for with donations.

The Mormon parents, including Valerie Bentley-Ballif, whose 17-year-old son Chris wanted to be in the musical until he read the script, objected to the play, saying that it is offensive and "inappropriate" for a public school. "He wanted to be in the musical, until he read the script," says Bentley-Ballif. "And he said, 'Mom, I can't do this. This is offensive."

The musical, which debuted on Broadway in 1971, tells the story of the life of Christ, loosely following the book of Matthew in the New Testament. However, the historical characters are represented by clowns in the musical. But the clowns also represent warring factions of society, and the play promotes tolerance and forgiveness.

Bentley-Ballif said she found the portrayal of Christ's crucifixion as an electrocution on an electric fence, particularly offensive. "I'm not a zealot. But that was offensive." But she blames her frustration on school officials, who she says didn't give proper weight to the concerns of parents. "We just don't believe they care about how we feel. I'm not at all happy about it, nor were any of the other parents."

Because of the concerns, the school distanced itself from the production, and principal Debbi Gomberg says most parents are satisfied with the solution. Students have 'hired' the school's drama director for the production, which will probably debut in January, instead of next week as originally planned. The play could also be further delayed because of ongoing negotiations.

Unlike Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Jesus Christ, Superstar," LDS Church officials have never issued an official comment on "Godspell." "Jesus Christ, Superstar," a rock opera that is also about the life of Christ, drew a condemnation from the LDS Church's First Presidency when it was performed in Salt Lake City in October 1971.


High School 'Godspell' play draws protests
St Louis MO Post (Salt Lake Tribune) 29Oct00 D4
By Ashley Estes: Salt Lake Tribune


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