Cal Area's 'Zombie' play eliminating suicide from script
By Rick Bruni Jr.
Published: Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, 1:16 a.m.
Following public backlash over a spring musical based on a teen suicide, California Area High School administrators have decided its drama club will use an alternate script.
The change to the production of “Zombie Prom” occurred after some district parents said it was insensitive to the family of a freshman at the school who committed suicide nearly two years ago.
The new version does not reference suicide.
Superintendent Brian Jackson confirmed the change was imminent Monday evening.
The musical is scheduled to run Feb. 28 to March 2.
Jackson said he plans to meet Tuesday with high school Principal Leigh Ann Folmar and drama club director Claudia Bennett.
Bennett and Folmar met with drama club members Saturday to discuss changes, Jackson said.
“I think, without a doubt, it's the best alternative,” Jackson said. “One of the parameters, obviously, is anything having to do with suicide would be out. … (The kids) didn't give us a lot of negative feedback.
“I think the kids and everyone involved understands.”
Felicity Macosta, a 14-year-old varsity cheerleader and basketball and volleyball player, committed suicide April 2, 2011.
Her mother, Lara, took exception to the play's content after parents notified her through phone calls and text messages.
Macosta said the district previously thwarted attempts to honor her daughter's memory because of a policy designed to discourage public discussion of suicide.
The efforts involved establishment of a scholarship in Felicity Macosta's name and allowing students to wear bracelets bearing the girl's initials, Lara Macosta has said.
Jackson said Monday the district has no written policy regarding the matter.
Macosta previously stated she didn't want the production to be canceled or to punish student actors, adding she and family members received negative emails after the issue gained media attention last week.
Macosta on Monday said she was pleased to hear of the impending script change.
“We're happy they took that into consideration, and I guess it's better than no change at all,” she said. “It's just a touchy situation, anyway. I didn't want to start this fight. I just asked a question. We are pleased they addressed the issue.”
In the original off-Broadway version of “Zombie Prom,” the lead character – Jonny Warner – breaks up with his girlfriend and then commits suicide by hurling himself into a nuclear power plant's cooling tower.
In the alternate script – “Zombie Prom, Atomic Version” – Jonny becomes a zombie after accidently coming in contact with nuclear waste while riding his bicycle. The school website acknowledged the change Monday.
Jackson said four of the show's musical numbers might have to be adapted. He added the new script has eliminated some of the more “racy” elements of the original version.
“A lot of things haven't been completely turned over,” Jackson said. “I think it's a positive thing. ... A lot of the more adult-oriented content was removed.”
Most importantly, Jackson said, Folmar and Bennett combed the new script line-by-line eliminating anything alluding to suicide.
“You're never going to make everyone happy; I just want to make sure everybody is comfortable, and I want to talk to the family. But I think that this is the best alternative,” Jackson said.
“Due to the sensitive nature of what happened, it was the only way to try and alleviate some of that.
“I think this whole issue was a learning experience for everyone involved.”
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2635.
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