The stage play is called "The Foreigner" — a two-act comedy set in the American south that depicts the Ku Klux Klan as the bad guys who get defeated when all is said and done.
"The Foreigner" has been performed in many high schools across the country, and it was slated for a weekend performance at New Prague High School in Minnesota — that is, until a photo of one scene hit social media.
It showed cast members in KKK hoods and robes, along with the caption, "I think you're gonna want to come to the spring play." And that set off a bit of a firestorm.
Image source: KARE-TV video screen cap
Hong Kang, a junior at New Prague, got a look at the photo and reposted it on her Facebook page. “I’m just disappointed and disgusted how the school would allow this to happen," she said. "I'm beyond mad right now. It's one thing to teach kids but it's another thing to dress up and act."
Kang told KARE-TV she was “shaking and upset” when she saw the image.
So Kang and other students — as well as parents and the play's director — met on Monday with Principal Lonnie Seifert, who told KARE there are 12 black students among the 1,300 enrolled at New Prague High School.
New Prague student Hong Kang (left) said she was upset about the photo of the actors in KKK costumes. (Image source: KARE-TV video screen cap)
After the meeting, Seifert and assistant principal Tom Wetschka sent out an email informing the school community that "The Foreigner" was canceled.
Seifert said he realizes there are "students and adults who are uncomfortable with that part of history," the StarTribune reported, adding that the email noted "we feel it is in the best interest of New Prague Area Schools to not present the show this weekend."
After meeting with parents and the play's director, Principal Lonnie Seifert said the play was canceled. (Image source: YouTube screen cap)
The email also said there will be discussions at the school "as we continue to work at embracing a culture of acceptance and respect for all students," the paper reported.
Student Morgan Dawson told KARE that even though the director said the play actually promotes inclusion and acceptance, the photo that hit social media conveyed "just the opposite."
"It makes blacks feel more and more excluded," she told the station. "The administration did take the right step toward inclusiveness by canceling the play.”
Not all students agreed, however.
“I am a little bit upset because I think it was taken out of proportion," Nathan Enge told KARE. "You can’t cut out history. The Ku Klux Klan is a historical thing."
Ryan Dolan told the station he would have rather seen the KKK costumes cut rather than the entire play.
“I don't think the school should've canceled the play,” he told KARE. “While the image was offensive and racially motivated, it should not contain the power to cut off the entire school play. The play as an entirety should not have been canceled.”
The station said cast members have been preparing "The Foreigner" for a month.
“I do feel bad for the kids who were in the play and the fact that they put in all this hard work,” Kang told KARE. “Our goal was not to have the play canceled, but we are tired of people telling us what we should be offended by and what we shouldn't be offended by.”