a world premiere
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Scott Miller
based on an actual court case, Island Trees School District v. Pico
March 18-26, 1994
New City School Theatre, St. Louis
Based on one of the most important book banning cases in U.S. history, Breaking Out in Harmony (a rewrite of The Line) explores the personal conflicts and powder keg emotions behind a simple act that snowballed into a U.S. Supreme Court case, Island Trees School District v. Pico. A small group of parents in a quiet suburban town break into their kids' high school library one night to remove "objectionable" books they've found on a list from a national conservative parents group. When their kids find out, the town is soon split in two – and so are some of the families – and the kids end up taking their parents and their school district all the way to the Supreme Court.
Tucker Goodman – Kent Hobson
Steven Goodman – Kevin Collier
Anne Goodman – Dena O’Malley
Darcy Bowles – Kat Smith
Sherman Bowles – Michael Shreves
Lydia Bowles – Kim Wolterman
Bash Crockett – Dan Sattel
Trish Young – Amy Jayne
Marge Blodgett – Kinsella Berry
THE ARTISTIC STAFF
Director – Scott Miller
Production Consultant – Sara Lee Hart
Lighting Designer – Steven P. Dohrmann
Stage Manager – Amy Lanning
Set Coordinator – Kevin Collier
Logo Design – Steve Kutheis
Piano – Chris Hegarty
Percussion – Adam Kopff
“There are a lot of truths – and a lot of questions – in Breaking Out in Harmony. . . Miller has dealt with a subject that continues to make news and cause controversy. . . There are many problems in the New Line Theatre production, but the drama has sufficient backbone to stand upright and deliver its message. . . Despite the shortcomings, Miller has written a musical that is ‘about something,’ and about something important too. It’s worth seeing, thinking about, and most important, acting on.” – Joe Pollack, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Some of Breaking Out’s songs are rousers.” – Harry Weber, The Riverfront Times
In this new musical, three members of the school board of the fictional Harmony, Missouri school district break into their high school library after hours and remove eleven “objectionable” books. Their teenage children find out and launch a protest (one of the kids even figures out how to turn the issue into a profit-making venture), and the controversy divides the community. Despite the students' protests, the board votes officially to keep the books off the shelves, so the students go to the local ACLU for help. The actual case on which the show is based, Pico v. Island Trees, went on for seven years and ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
But this is not an isolated case. In fact, since Ronald Reagan took office in 1980, censorship cases have been increasing dramatically every year. Parents continue to demand the removal of everything from Dr. Seuss and Stephen King to the Bible. An organization in Washington, D.C. called People for the American Way tracks the hundreds of challenges to materials in schools each year. Nearly half of the challenges are successful.
But our show isn't only about censorship. The other big issue in Breaking Out in Harmony is the question of when a child is old enough to make his own way in the world. The students believe that by age 17 they can make mature decisions for themselves. Yet with the continuing increase of guns and drugs among American teenagers, their parents believe they have good cause to worry about their children and about the many influences on their children's attitudes. Who can honestly say they have nothing to worry about?
Breaking Out in Harmony doesn't try to answer these questions. It merely explores the fears and motivations behind the people on both sides of these very complex issues. In an increasingly dangerous world, parents find it more and more difficult to stop protecting their children. And in the midst of an information explosion, teenagers see so many things they want to explore and discover, and they don't want their parents holding them back. Unfortunately, a case like this one puts the concerns of parents and their children into direct conflict.
The New York Times said about the original case, “The controversy . . . points directly to fundamental questions about the nature of community in modern American society.” One of the judges ruling on the case wrote, “The use of governmental power to condemn a book touches the central nervous system of the first amendment.” And the debate rages on today, over everything from Madonna's book, Sex, to the author of the Winnie-the-Pooh books.
Thank you for joining us tonight for this roller-coaster ride through the American education system, the American family, and the U.S. Constitution. We hope you enjoy yourselves, and we hope you find lots of things to talk about on the drive home.