Nudity in Deck, Boundary District Arts Council presentation, causes stir

School District 51 (SD51) and the Boundary District Arts Council (BDAC) are at odds over a moon, so to speak.

Lucas Meyers' Deck has been moved to the Gem Theatre because of brief nudity.

Lucas Meyers' Deck has been moved to the Gem Theatre because of brief nudity.

School District 51 (SD51) and the Boundary District Arts Council (BDAC) are at odds over a moon, so to speak

The BDAC Performance Series presentation of the one-man comedy Deck has had to be moved from its preferred performance location in the auditorium at Grand Forks Secondary School to a stage at the Gem Theatre because at one point in the production, the playwright/actor Lucas Meyers briefly displays his bottom.

“It doesn’t last very long,” BDAC President Michele Garrison said.  “It’s just a flash.” Nevertheless, in a letter dated July 2, 2012, SD51 Secretary-Treasurer Jeannette Hanlon wrote to Garrison, “It has come to my attention that the Boundary District Arts Council is planning to bring in a theatre production that contains partial nudity. We do not allow productions containing nudity in our facility. You will not be able to rent the auditorium for this performance.” Hanlon went on to say that if the partial nudity were eliminated, the performance would be allowed.

School Superintendent Michael Strukoff said that in fact, a member of BDAC had told him the performance was promoted as being able to be performed either with the nudity or with simulated nudity, the latter being acceptable to the school district.

Garrison said that she had asked for and received from Hanlon a copy of the policies governing the use of the auditorium. “There was nothing in it,” she said. “All it covers are the mechanics, that the building has to be kept locked and clean, just the basics.”

On Monday, Garrison spoke to Strukoff about the policy. “He told me that since there was no mention of nudity in the policy, that they could interpret it that way, and that Jeannette was the person who could interpret it,” Garrison said. “I am confused as to why one person, Jeannette Hanlon, has this authority,” she said.  “Another thing that confuses me is that this is the Centennial Community Auditorium for community use not in school hours, and that the use of the auditorium was for many stakeholders.”  She said that BDAC had contributed thousands of dollars to the auditorium for the stage lighting.

She added that Strukoff told her any concerns over the ban would have to be taken up with the school board after a request for consideration had been submitted in writing.  Strukoff confirmed that to The Gazette. “There is no district policy that specifically addresses that issue for productions that are from the outside community,” Strukoff said. “So when there is a silence in our policy manual on any issues, the policy is that senior management can make that decision.”

School board chair Teresa Rezansoff also indicated that this was the policy. “Jeannette would be the person to go to and then, after that, if whatever that decision is, is not agreed to by whoever is asking to have that performance, then that group could come to the board and ask for that decision to be reviewed.”

Strukoff said, “Management consulted on this. It’s a school facility.  Yes, it’s after hours but, just as we don’t allow drinking in our school facility, there are exceptions made from time to time, but they are made by the board of education. So at this time we are taking a conservative point of view. It’s a public school, Grade 8 to 12, and we’re going to basically apply a similar style of standard on productions that take place in our facility.”

Garrison said that the BDAC board would follow through with a submission to the school board.

Meanwhile, the play Deck will be presented at the Gem Theatre next Thursday, Feb. 7.