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June 26, 2014

Kids theater group booted from Ipswich arts center

IPSWICH — For Moonlight Productions, the show won’t go on. At least not at Ipswich High School’s Performing Arts Center this summer.

The theater group, which provides a venue for child performers, has used the facility during the past two summers. But director J.T. Turner said that in May, he was informed by Superintendent William Hart that the group won’t be allowed back this summer to mount “Honk,” a story based on “The Ugly Duckling.”

The ban stems “from a series of problems last year when Moonlight used the PAC facilities,” Hart said.

Hart cited a decision to move an 8,000-pound, $80,000 Steinway grand piano, an extremely sensitive instrument donated by a school supporter, from the stage to the orchestra pit.

“That was a strong reflection of poor judgment,” he said. And he wonders why Turner, with his extensive theater experience — he was even the drama director at the middle school for a time — made such a decision.

In addition, Hart said, “Some very significant damage was done in one of the bathrooms.” He blames poor supervision of the young performers for this lapse. The town’s investment in school facilities is a public trust, he said. “We don’t take that responsibility lightly.”

Hart expressed disappointment that this matter has been made public. But he acknowledged that the outpouring of support for Moonlight Productions coming in his direction has been impressive in “the way people have spoken about the positive impact.” At the same time, he stressed that the decision to ban the production this summer wasn’t meant to be permanent.

Rather, suspending the right to use the PAC was a way to impress upon the group the seriousness of the problems they created. Further, he said, he told Turner, “I’ll talk to you next year.” In fact, he hopes to talk even sooner and is in the process of setting up a meeting on Friday.

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