What the what?
Gay penguin controversy causes ruckus in Austin elementaries
Austin ISD has canceled 10 performances of an elementary school play because of gay penguins. Graduate theater students from the University of Texas had planned to put on a play based on a book by Emily Freeman called "And Then Came Tango."
Freeman’s book was inspired by the true story of two male Chinstrap Penguins named Roy and Silo that incubated and raised a hatchling at the Central Park Zoo in New York City.
Apparently, after UT students first performed at Lee Elementary there were concerns about how two dude penguins raising a baby penguin might lead to questions about homosexuality from second- and third-graders.
It’s the first UT play to be canceled by AISD. Graduate students usually perform for the school district as part of their degree program.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, AISD fine arts director Greg Goodman sent a letter to the UT theater program stating that “the subject matter communicated in the play is a topic that Austin ISD believes should be examined by parents/guardians who will discuss with their elementary school age children at a time deemed appropriate by the parents/guardians.”
Freeman said in a press release that "And Then Came Tango" examines how families are not limited to the traditional nuclear family construction.
Family is an entire colony of penguins, a young girl and her single mom, a zookeeper and the animals he tends, and two male penguins and their adopted egg. As these family structures are threatened in the play, we learn the power of voicing your opinions and standing up for your beliefs, no matter how old you are.
The Statesman also spoke with Jonathan Saenz, president of the conservative Texas Values group, who was (no surprise here) in favor of the ban.
“We define marriage very clearly in the state of Texas," Saenz said. "So if you have a play that tries to push and promote a different marriage definition, which is clearly illegal, it leads students to ask questions about it, and it leads to the discussion of sex.”
Freeman says that Roy and Silo aren't married in the play, anyway. So, what does happen? According to Freeman, the penguins form a pair bond and care for an orphaned egg, which hatches and Tango is born. The main conflict in the play is a public outcry about the fact that Roy and Silo are two male penguins with an adopted egg.
If you want a final indicator of how this story is playing out on the national landscape, it has (not incorrectly) been compared to the Parks & Recreation episode “Pawnee Zoo” in which two penguins get married and people are mad. Because both the penguins are male. The obsurdity of people being angry about a fake penguin wedding made for great television, but the message was clearly lost on AISD.
Though AISD has canceled the remaining performances, "And Then Came Tango" has been able to perform at private schools as well as Del Valle Middle School without everyone turning into either a homosexual or a penguin. There are also free performances being put on at the Oscar G. Brockett Theatre November 30 through December 2.