Voices in Conflict
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|Voices in Conflict|
Students of Wilton High School's Theatre Arts II
|Date premiered||June 6, 2007|
|Place premiered||Fairfield Theatre Company
The Culture Project
The Public Theater
|Subject||War in Iraq|
Voices in Conflict is a 2007 play written when 16 students from Wilton High School in Wilton, Connecticut developed a show consisting of memoirs drawn from letters of soldiers serving in the Iraq War. The process started as a short play that would be put on for the student body and the community. Voices in Conflict was banned from the high school because it was deemed sensational and inappropriate. Coverage of the controversy in The New York Times and other media outlets brought national attention to the play.
The play was shut down by school principal Tim Canty and district superintendent Dr. Gary Richards, who told the director and students they could not perform the play at the high school, as they deemed it "sensational and inappropriate." In a published letter to the Wilton Bulletin, a local newspaper, Richards explained the decision:
"All school programs need to serve a legitimate educational purpose. The Iraq war, of course, is an important, serious, complex, and critical topic for a high school to address…When the Theatre Arts teacher first broached the idea of a play honoring soldiers in Iraq, we supported exploring it with the understanding that there would be on-going communication between the teacher and administration. However, after seeing subsequent drafts, we have serious concerns. The play has contained direct excerpts from a book, documentary films, letters to the newspapers, and web-sites…The scripts contains language that, while realistic, is graphic and violent. In addition, the format includes the student performers directly acting the part of the soldiers…In our view, this approach turns powerful material into a dramatic format that borders on being sensational and inappropriate. As a school, we have a responsibility to ensure that the Iraq war, the lives lost, and the sacrifices made by soldiers and their families are presented in the appropriate context and with appropriate support and guidance…We would like to work with the students to complete a script that fully addresses our concerns…We plan to work through this complicated situation together with the students and staff. I am optimistic that we will find an outcome that will be responsive to the concerns of all parties." 
Due in part to the high school's proximity to New York City and its activist theater community, the controversy began to garner outside attention. The New York Times, Fox News, CBS, and ABC each provided coverage of the unfolding events.
The play itself centers around varied narratives of the Iraq War. Student portrayed soldiers, Iraqis, and others whose lives had been altered by the conflict. Some students contacted the very soldiers they were portraying in order to interview them. US Marine Corporal Sean Huze, an infantryman, whose line "Your purpose is to kill," was removed from the "compromise" second draft of the script  and Paul Rieckhoff, a soldier whose words were used in the play, were both interviewed. Lt. Rieckhoff attended a few of the performances after the play found an off-campus performance space.
- - Dr. Gary Richards Superintendent of Schools. Wilton, CT March 24, 2007