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January 27, 2017

After debate over racial slur, Cherry Hill East High School to perform 'Ragtime' as written

Officials at a Cherry Hill high school have decided to perform of the musical "Ragtime" as written after previously announcing they would remove racial slurs from the production's script.

Cherry High Public Schools administrators announced the decision Friday. They had originally said the N-word and other racial slurs would be removed from the March production at Cherry Hill High School East after outraged parents and community groups complained.

But that decision faced backlash, too. Students and community groups remarked that removing the slurs would "sanitize" the production about the immigrant experience in America during the early 20th century.

Talks continued this week after 100 people attended a school board meeting Tuesday to voice their opinions on the issue.

Officials said that discussions with Music Theatre International, the script's distributor, made it clear that "the play must be performed as written or not performed at all."

"We will make it abundantly clear that we loathe the N-word, that we despise this most vile of words in our language," Superintendent Joseph Meloche said in a statement released Friday. "We have been offered professional support in this endeavor from within the Cherry Hill Schools community and from professionals outside the community."

The district is planning to incorporate the show's themes and historical context into its curriculum and give resources and context to audience members during the performances.

Cherry Hill East's production of "Ragtime" will open on March 10 and close March 19.