Students speak on Columbia high school play being postponed due to concerns over its content

Theater students at Columbia High speak out after controversial play postponed
Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 7:29 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 8, 2022 at 5:51 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, N.C. (WITN) - Students at Columbia High School in Tyrrell County had been rehearsing for Wednesday night’s performance of Sweeney Todd, but administrators postponed the play over concerns with its content.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, is about a London barber who kills his customers and gives their bodies to his partner in crime who bakes their flesh into pies.

Sweeney Todd was one of two performances set to take place. The other was an adaptation of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. That is described online as a 1920 German silent horror film where a hypnotist commits murders. A poster promoting the school plays called it “A diabolical double feature.”

Tyrrell County Superintendent Dr. Karen Roseboro said, “The CHS Drama Play Sweeney Todd will be postponed until further notice. There will be no showing of the play today, Wednesday, December 7th at 7:00 p.m. due to concerns with the content of the play, it will be fully reviewed by Tyrrell County Schools Superintendent Dr. Roseboro and School Administration before this play moves forward. We know that the students worked hard on this production and we are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause but we have to ensure that this play meets age appropriate content and educational standards.”

WITN received phone calls and messages from residents in Columbia who expressed concern over violence in the play.

On Tuesday, the school and district websites and Facebook pages had a poster promoting the play, but on Wednesday all references to the play taking place had been removed.

The poster included a warning stating, “Content-warning--mild stage violence. Not recommended for small children.”

On Thursday, Roseboro shared that the play’s postponement was because of a procedural issue.

“The play was approved before I became the Superintendent. I needed the opportunity to review the contents of the play before presenting it publicly,” Roseboro said. “This is a standard procedure that I am putting in place where the Principal and the Superintendent will approve any external content to determine age appropriateness. Once we have had adequate time to review the materials we will make a decision. We always want to do what is in the best interest of our students to expand their educational experiences, we also must consider age appropriateness.”

Ava Leigh is an actress who was supposed to be in the play. She’s upset because all the hard work she’d done over the past month could possibly be going to waste.

“I was very bummed. I was ready to do it,” Leigh said. “I had my outfit ready and then it got canceled.”

Jayden Sowyer is a ninth grader at the school. He also expressed disappointment over the postponement.

“I’m kind of disappointed because even though it had cannibalism in it, I think it still should have went on because it was a play with students in it and they have worked really hard for it and I think we should still be able to see it,” Sowyer said.

It has not been determined yet when there will be a decision about canceling or resuming this play.

There have been many versions of the play, and movies over the years since the character first appeared in a magazine in the mid-1800′s.