SALT LAKE CITY — Censorship of the arts is not an uncommon event in Utah. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked to remove or change lines in scripts I’ve been given out of the fear that the customers will tear down the walls if they hear anything they “shouldn’t.” Good theatre companies will clear these changes with the playwrights, and there are in fact many playwrights who create alternate versions of their scripts for more family friendly performances. The question to ask at that point, however, is should we make these changes?
Plan-B has given a wonderful platform for exploring that idea through their event And the Banned Played On. The evening is a simple one, with various local political figures and members of the arts community reading from children’s books that have for some reason or other been banned from schools and libraries. Yet despite the simpicity of the evening’s events, the message resonates loud and clear. To help give a behind the scenes peek into this production I’ve spoken with actress Anne Cullimore Decker about her thoughts on Plan-B, the production, and censorship in general:
UTBA: What can you tell us about this event? From what I have been able to research it deals with censorship of literature?
DECKER: I performed on Jerry Rapier‘s first Banned event, and it was a huge success. People, including myself were shocked to see the wonderful literature that has been banned one time or another. Apparently, the evening was so popular, he’s bringing it back, with yet even more children’s favorites which have this ominous cloud over them.
UTBA: I read on Plan-B’s press release that you are reading from Green Eggs and Ham. Was this book a personal choice? Why do you feel it was included in the lineup?
DECKER: No, this story was assigned to me, but I absolutely love Dr. Seuss books, so I have not complaints. And as I read it, I simply cannot believe it has been banned. I also read a Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, (with Brenda Sue Cowley) several years ago. Who could possibly be offended, or shocked, by a Dr. Seuss book? They’re full of delightful, humorous play and the rhythms in his writing are infectious.
UTBA: This event seems like a bit of a departure from a normal night out to the theatre. What should audiences expect?
DECKER: People who follow Jerry know that he will always have an interest twist on his programs. I think he’s been smart to ask politicians to perform. People love to see celebrities in a different role. Who wouldn’t want to come and hear Mayors Becker & McAdams, councilman Stan Penfold, State Sen. Jim Dabakis, Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, and others. I guess I’m the “token” actor who has been asked. Hope they don’t upstage me too much.
UTBA: What do you hope for audiences to take away from the performance?
DECKER: Besides having an evening of pleasure and entertainment, a reality check on the absurdity of “censorship” over the years. This is nothing new, but it continues to shock me of what some people think might be offensive.
UTBA: How censorship of the fine arts played a role in your life as an actress?
DECKER: I recall when I was a young adult, that some productions would actually eliminate certain words, or cut out stage directions because they feared it would offend the audience. Now, theatres realize that it is against the law, thank goodness. I as an actress, of course, have had to say some pretty tough language in certain plays, but that was what the character would have said, and that is what the playwright wrote. It is our job to honor the script. Good literature is a mirror to life, and we cannot censor that reality.
UTBA: To wrap up, I have one final question for you: what is your favorite banned book? Why was is banned
DECKER: When I look at the list of banned books, I simply cannot believe it. It seems that all of them make my list of “favorites.” That would be too difficult to single out any one of them. It seems that every book being presented this year was a favorite or either mine or my husband’s, or with one or another of our sons. We all search our brains to remember why, why, why, that would ever be censored. Hard to see how they “corrupted” us. Thank goodness they weren’t banned from our library or our home.