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Playwright Cries “Homophobia” After Jacksonville High School Cancels Her Musical

The musical includes an erotic sexual encounter between two women. Author Paula Vogel suggested that the school district’s decision was based on “homophobia” and possibly antisemitism.

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA — A Pulitzer-prize winning playwright is speaking out after a high school in Jacksonville decided last week to move on from a musical she wrote that features a sexual encounter between two women. Douglas Anderson School of the Arts was planning to perform “Indecent” – a contemporary musical written by Paula Vogel that paid tribute to a controversial play from 1907 called “God of Vengeance.”

“God of Vengeance” is about a Jewish brothel owner whose daughter falls in love with one of the prostitutes in his employ. The play defied conventional societal norms at the time of its release and portrayed a sexual encounter between two women, who kissed on stage. In an article contextualizing the play, Warren Hoffman wrote: “The play was found to be so scandalous that in March 1923, under New York Penal Law 1140A, the cast and producers were found guilty of performing ‘immoral’ drama on the Broadway stage.”


“Indecent,” which debuted in 2015, is inspired by true events of the scandal surrounding “God of Vengeance.”

A copy of the “Indecent” script on reveals what the District may have considered adult content. In one scene, two women kiss and begin to engage in sexual acts, saying: “Let me wash your breasts in the rain. [...] Your breasts are so pale. So soft. […] I want you to take me. [...] I want to taste you.” A screenshot of the scene can be viewed below:


In an email to parents, Douglas Anderson Principal Tina Wilson wrote that “a closer review of the mature content of ‘Indecent’ led us to the conclusion that ‘Seagull’ is better suited for a school production.”

A statement from the District reinforced Wilson’s sentiment.

“‘Indecent’ contains adult sexual dialog that is inappropriate for student cast members and student audiences. It’s that simple,” a spokesperson for the District wrote in an email to The Florida Standard. “The decision has no relevance to any legislation but is rather a function of our responsibilities to ensure students engage in educational activities appropriate for their age.”


In response to the news, Vogel tweeted on Friday: “A question for the Duval School board: what part of your decision is from homophobia when you censored your high school students performing in INDECENT? What part is anti-semitism? I fear the 2nd is also possible.”

She expounded on her speculation Tuesday, telling Action News Jax: “I do think this is the perfect collision between homophobia, Anti-Semitism and the notion we police our students in a move towards a totalitarianism. That’s what I think this is.”

On Monday, Vogel exhorted theater companies who have performed the play in the past to write to Superintendent Diana Greene and posted a link to the contact page for the school district’s board members.

“As a playwright who wrote a play about how censorship is a first step toward genocide, I am puzzled about the school board's decision. There is nothing prurient about Indecent,” she said in a statement. “But it is as an educator that I am angry and appalled. Why hurt the students who are aiming to become theatre makers?”

Vogel went so far as to suggest that prohibiting underaged teens from performing the play might itself be an obscene act.

“Disempowering young artists at this crucial age borders, to me, on an obscene act,” she wrote.


National media outlets picked up on the District’s decision after students blamed the new Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits classroom discussions on gender identity and sexual orientation with young children. Madeline Scotti, one of the students performing in the show, posted a video on Instagram, attributing blame to the recent legislation’s “ideals.”

“Tonight, during rehearsal, our company was notified that the school board is shutting us down, not because of, but related to the ideals stated in the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill,” Scotti said.