Vagina Monologues deemed too racy for most students at Edmonton school

Eve Ensler's hot-button play The Vagina Monologues is the centre of debate at an Edmonton high school.

Eve Ensler's hot-button play The Vagina Monologues is the centre of debate at an Edmonton high school.

Drama students at Harry Ainlay High School were prevented from presenting the play to fellow students on Tuesday, after somebody complained about the production.

They were allowed to go ahead with an evening performance, but students could only be admitted with the permission of their parents.

"It shouldn't be an issue," student director Bonnie Ings told CBC News. "Students should be able to see it — even if their parents disagree. Shouldn't we be teaching our children to question and think for themselves? Isn't that what school's all about?"

High school officials refused to answer questions from CBC News about why the afternoon performance of the play was cancelled.

But Ings said the play was shut down shortly after posters announcing it were posted around the school.

The award-winning play contains frank and sometimes humorous talk about women's issues and sexuality.

It is performed in thousands of venues every year and is frequently used as a fundraiser for battered women's shelters and sexual assault lines.

It has been controversial in some schools. Last year, a Cross River, N.Y. school threatened to suspend three female students for saying the word "vagina" in a production of the play.

'Not a scary word'

That brought the playwright herself to a school board meeting to speak in defence of her play. Free speech advocates across the U.S. also sprang to the defence of the teens.

"It's really important that females feel comfortable in their own skin and are able to talk about vaginas — and it's not a scary word that people dance around all the time," said Ings.

A recurring theme throughout the play is the vagina as a tool of female empowerment. 

It's important teens be able to openly talk about what's affecting their lives, said Keri Ekberg, who runs a teen theatre festival at Citadel Theatre in Edmonton.

"If we haven't provided that for them — if we've closed the door on those types of opportunities, we haven't done our job as artists, as community members — to show teens how much power they can have in a community," she said.

"We should be teaching our young people to question and to stand up for things are really important and need to be changed in society, and I think that the school should be supporting that rather than quashing it."