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Homophobia alleged as Clovis Unified shuts down high school play

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Controversy erupted after Clovis Unified administrators canceled a student play over the weekend. The teens behind "No Exit" believe homosexual themes drove the decision. (KFSN)

Controversy erupted after Clovis Unified administrators canceled a student play over the weekend. The teens behind "No Exit" believe homosexual themes drove the decision.

After months of writing, rehearsals, and reflection, Buchanan High School students gave life to the Jean-Paul Sartre play "No Exit."

"It's kind of been this whole blood, sweat, and tears thing just to get to the end, and then we had it canceled on us," said student director Jared Serpa.

One show and "No Exit" had to exit stage left. The play features three characters who've met in hell and discuss how they got there. Clovis Unified administrators say parents complained about adult content, so they canceled the last two performances.

"There's language," said CUSD communications director Kelly Avants. "There are themes of child murder. There are themes of people getting shot multiple times. There's a great deal of sexual content from a number of different perspectives."

"They are in hell," Serpa said. "You're not going to get to hell by stepping on ants or picking an orange off a tree that doesn't belong to you."

The director thought he did enough to downplay any objectionable themes when he got it approved before putting on the production. And "No Exit" is required reading in an AP Literature class at Buchanan.

But administrators say the literature class includes college-aged content and parents have to give permission for the kids to take it.

"The system that is designed to catch things before they hit the stage failed to catch the content of this particular show," Avants said.

But Serpa suspects the real reason behind some of the complaints and the cancellation has more to do with homophobia. One of the three characters is a lesbian; another is androgynous. But he believes art should challenge people to confront ideas that are different.

"I just think the time of catering to a community that we have and not opening the door to more diverse forms of art and people should be over," Serpa said.

This may not be the final scene for "No Exit", though. A petition is spreading to force Clovis Unified to put it back on. Serpa's also looking for other venues where he could put it on and a few theaters are already offering to play host.

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