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C.M. Russell High School cancels ‘American Roulette’

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The Great Falls Public School district has cancelled all showings of the C.M. Russell High School drama department’s upcoming play “American Roulette,” CMR drama teacher Chris Evans announced today.

The show was cancelled due to what Evans said was, “a case of bad timing,” and the school administration choosing to be “protective of our kids.”

Two weeks ago, a 15-year-old freshman at CMR committed suicide in his home. Evans said the school made the decision to cancel the play because they were concerned that it could have a negative effect on other students who could be in a similar situation as the one who ended his own life.

Evans said before yesterday he believed the show would be taking place this weekend, even if he had some suspicions that it could be cancelled. He said no decisions were made about showing the play in the future.

“There’s a lot of mad people right now, I’m talking a whole bunch of people,” he said.

Evans said while it might be tempting to blame the administration for cancelling the play, he said he doesn’t see it like that.

“Everyone is already jumping on this saying ‘well it’s a First Amendment issue,’ but no, that’s not it,” he said. “(The school administration) is protecting our kids and from a parent’s standpoint, my reaction was ‘thank you.’ We can discuss the level of protection that the kids need, but if we take a good honest look at this, their hearts are in the right place. There are no bad guys here.”

Tammy Lacey, Superintendent of Great Falls Public Schools, echoed Evans statement, saying this decision to cancel the show came down to protecting the students.

“We had several folks who came to us who had substantial concerns about the themes within the shows,” she said. “Not the overall theme of hope and renewal as Chris so eloquently puts it, but some of the  sub-themes in the play including a botched suicide, a school shooting and guns. Those are the kinds of things that are part of the plot and there was substantial concern regarding the negative effect that viewing those things could have on some people.”

She added that in her role as superintendent, one of her first responsibilities is to ensure safety of all students, even if it might not be a popular decision to make.

“We’re in the business of protecting students and not exposing them to situations that can cause harm,” she said. “I don’t mean that this play could do that, but you never know how individuals can take a certain message and if we can protect students from that, that’s part of our mission and our goal. I take student safety and student health very seriously.”

Evans added that while people are upset and feeling raw emotions right now, he said the best thing people can do is to keep things in perspective.

“Some people have called this a tragedy that this show was cancelled, but let’s be real here,” he said. “Someone losing their life, that’s a tragedy. This is disappointing, but it doesn’t come close to a tragedy.”

Evans said through it all, he said he’s fine with people who have seen the show and did not care for it’s subject material nor it’s message.

What he doesn’t think is fair, however, is the people who judged the play without seeing it or knowing anything about what it’s about.

“It’s the having an opinion on something that people don’t truly know about, that’s my only beef in all of this,” Evans said. “People have called it ‘the school shooting show’ and it’s not. That was the only thing some people knew about …. that bothered some folks.There was so much more to this play, though, and it would have opened that dialogue about what happens when a tragedy happens, but like I said, we just had some bad timing.”

Finally Evans said he’s asking everyone to just cool down a bit and remember that it’s a complex issue.

“One of the best phrases I’ve heard through this is ‘judge slowly. I’ve got a lot of teenagers who are super mad right now and they have every right to be because they did nothing wrong, but in a way it’s a dose of reality because this kind of thing happens in real life all the time.”

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