STC Drama to present “You Can’t Take It With You” after scrapping “August: Osage County”
TAMA — “The play must go on” is a phrase that has been used over and over since the 19th century, but rarely has it been more applicable than this spring here at South Tama County High School.
The drama department was originally slated to perform “August: Osage County,” a Pulitzer Prize winning play written by Tracy Letts in 2007, before the district’s administration and school board intervened and Director Dixie Forcht voluntarily agreed to stage a new production in lieu of a formal directive.
“August: Osage County” deals with themes of death, suicide, verbal abuse, addiction, racism, love, and family in rural Oklahoma, a sort of modern take on the type of play Tennessee Williams wrote back in the 1940s and 50s. STC Superintendent John Cain commented that he thought the community was not prepared for the play.
“The play was not appropriate for the majority of the high school students and certainly anybody younger. It was beyond rated PG,” he said.
The award-winning play has been performed in high schools all over the country, including students using selected scenes and speeches for state competitions. Cross Plains, Texas, a community of less than 1,000 people, and their high school put on a production of “August: Osage County” back in 2017. Teri Brown, the editor of the Cross Plains Review, did not recall any similar problems arising around their production of the play, which was performed at the school auditorium.
A Hollywood film adaptation was released in 2013 and garnered two Academy Award nominations, one for Meryl Streep and another for Julia Roberts. In determining the necessary action to be taken over the play, Cain and high school administrators watched the movie, which Cain described as “concerning.” Cain also remarked that he hadn’t processed the whole play, so he was basing some of his opinions off of the movie.
Forcht, a 10-year veteran of South Tama County community schools, felt she followed all the procedures in place when she chose “August: Osage County” last fall. Cain said it wasn’t until January or February of this year that he started to hear a few comments from people expressing discomfort with the selection.
An attempt to edit and censor the play was made but ultimately found to be illegal without the consent of the author and publisher. In the end, after all the back and forth over “August: Osage County,” it was also Forcht’s decision to switch to a less controversial play.
“You Can’t Take It With You” by George S. Kauffman and Moss Hart is an American classic written in 1936. Centered around the eccentric Sycamores, the play is about an odd family that lives life to the beat of their own drum.
Work, taxes, money and other things that concern the average citizen aren’t a thought to any member of the Sycamore clan as they are much more interested in writing, dancing, and explosives. That is until the night Alice Sycamore brings her new straight laced fiance and his upper crust parents home to meet the family. As one might expect, things go amazingly awry in this hilarious farce.
“You Can’t Take It With You” has been one of the 10 most produced school plays every year since the rights became available back in 1939. Watching the teenage actors donned with faces full of makeup, fake mustaches, and the occasional bald cap, it’s easy to see what makes this play a favorite. There are over 20 South Tama students that work together both on the stage and draped in black behind it to mount this play, doing their best to execute a superb performance.
Working on an abbreviated schedule, the STC students had their work cut out for them with this year’s production of “You Can’t Take IT With You.” They had only a little more than half the time to get the play up and running than they have in years past, due to the issues surrounding “August: Osage County” and the decision to change the play.
Students already had lines committed to memory, the set was partially built, and the students were three weeks into production when “August: Osage County” was nixed. Switching gears faster than a Formula One racecar, the drama students turned their focus and energy on “You Can’t Take It With You.” This Thursday, Friday, and Saturday will see the result of the astounding feat of putting on a play in only five weeks.
“The play is going well, considering how little time we’ve had to put it together,” STC senior Itzel Herrera said.
With only a little over a month to see this production come to fruition, these thespians are beaming with excitement to show the community what they can do. All in all, the old adage stands true, more or less. Whether the adversity is stage fright or a “concerning” production, the play will go on, even if it’s an entirely new one altogether.
“You Can’t Take It With You” will be performed at the STC High School’s Little Theater on Thursday, March 30 at 7 p.m., Friday March 31 at 7 p.m., and on April 1 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults.