Peter Pan flies into controversy

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The Independent Online
THE Thought Police were out again in Long Island at the weekend. They managed to prevent schoolchildren from performing Peter Pan on the grounds that is offensive to Native Americans in its use of such words as 'redskin' and a song entitled 'Ugh a Wugha'.

Parents from the local Shinnecock Indian reservation also objected to the use of the words 'squaw' and 'brave' and to the song's ending with children singing 'How]' They say there is no such word in the Native American vocabulary.

Fifty youngsters who had rehearsed for weeks in the roles of Peter, Wendy, Tiger Lily, Tinkerbell, Captain Hook and even the ticking crocodile who swallowed a clock, were told by their school principal the curtain could not go up. There were just too many complaints.

'The Native Americans I spoke to felt very deeply that this play only repeated stereotypical images of Native Americans, and they felt it would be injurious,' said John O'Mahoney, the principal of Southampton Intermediate School. Another Long Island school recently removed the overcrowded beach page of Where's Waldo (the US version of Where's Wally) from a school library because there was a minuscule woman baring a breast.

Being a fair-minded man, Mr O'Mahoney called Samuel French Inc, the owners of the rights to Peter Pan, to see if a few words could be changed. At first the company agreed, but then the school wanted to take the song out altogether and that was too much, said Abbott van Nostrand, who oversees the amateur rights.

'The play is performed a thousand times a year, but as it was written by J M Barrie 66 years ago some of the langauge is not of this day,' explained Mr van Nostrand.

To comfort the disappointed children, the school will use the same cast in The Wizard of Oz, a production already cleared by a special multicultural panel at the school.