• Mitchell County Schools Superintendent Chad Calhoun talks to a group of pastors and concerned citizens who came to Ledger to pray Friday, Nov. 9, after a controversial play was performed at Mitchell High School the day before. Calhoun said he instructed the school to stop the play immediately and he regrets what happened. (Cory Spiers/News-Journal)
    Mitchell County Schools Superintendent Chad Calhoun talks to a group of pastors and concerned citizens who came to Ledger to pray Friday, Nov. 9, after a controversial play was performed at Mitchell High School the day before. Calhoun said he instructed the school to stop the play immediately and he regrets what happened. (Cory Spiers/News-Journal)

Play at MHS sparks controversy

Performance shut down; local pastors organize prayer group

LEDGER – A group of nearly 40 pastors and others gathered Friday, Nov. 9, at the Mitchell County Schools Central Office to pray for the students, teachers and parents in Mitchell County after a play performed Thursday, Nov. 8, at Mitchell High School caused controversy.

The play was “The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged,” which parodies the plays of William Shakespeare, and was sponsored by the Toe River Arts Council and performed by members of the Parkway Playhouse. The controversy stems from the performance’s coarse language, references to drinking, murder, suicide and the fact two male characters engaged in a “stage kiss.”

Mitchell County Schools Superintendent Chad Calhoun said he had the play shut down about 15 minutes after the Central Office was notified.

“During the performance, several students and teachers became offended at language and topics within the play,” Calhoun said. “Some examples given to me were inappropriate language and topics, insults to ethnic groups, suicide portrayal, violence portrayal and simulated alcohol use. TRAC administration was also present and agreed to shut it down. Soon after, Mitchell County Schools received an apology from TRAC. TRAC has been an asset to Mitchell County Schools, and we will work together to make sure this never happens again.”

Timothy Rupard, the pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Newland, posted a Facebook status around 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8, urging local preachers and others to join the prayer group.

“In light of what happened at Mitchell High School today, I think a group of preachers should make an appearance tomorrow,” Rupard wrote. “We are meeting for prayer tomorrow at noon near Mitchell High School. This is not just for preachers; we are asking everyone that is willing to be there at 12.”

Calhoun addressed the group assembled in the parking lot before the praying began.

“TRAC used to come to me and together we would look at the year’s performances,” Calhoun said. “TRAC now has a new director, and that didn’t happen this year. Instead, the high school was contacted directly. What the students were subjected to was uncalled for and should have never happened. I promise to do my best to keep things like this out of our school system.”

Rupard told the group that if any of them were met with opposition, to conduct themselves as Christians and keep their composure.

“This is not a headhunt,” he said. “There were some negative seeds planted in the minds of young people yesterday, and we’re here to pray about that. We’re here to pray for our kids, our teachers and our school system.”

Spruce Pine First Baptist Church Associate Pastor Jeff Turner participated in the prayer group but said he has a lingering question.

“Where were (the pastors) a few weeks ago when Mitchell had a student die,” he said. “Why weren’t we doing this then?”

Black Mountain Baptist Church Pastor Josh Cooke said what he was told happened in the play was offensive to him as a father, a Christian and a pastor.

“We are here for two reasons,” he said. “To pray and to make sure this never happens again. We are taking a stand for what’s right.”

The MItchell News

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