Pop Culture

Show will go on — on Steve Martin’s dime

Steve Martin has offered to pay for an off-campus production of his play “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” which was banned from a high school because parents objected to what they called adult content.

The actor and comedian said in a letter to a newspaper that he wants to keep the play, conducted in other high schools without controversy, “from acquiring a reputation it does not deserve.”

The 1993 play imagines a meeting between Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein in a Paris bar as they are on the verge of great achievements in painting and physics.

It is aimed at explaining “the similarity of the creative process involved in great leaps of imagination in art and science,” Martin said in the letter published Friday in The La Grande Observer.

Last month a parent objected to the production planned by La Grande High School teacher Kevin Cahill and gave school officials a petition signed by 137 people. The school board halted rehearsals.

Since then, plans have been afoot for the students to present the play instead at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, with a Student Democrats group raising money.

Martin read online of the controversy, said a spokesman, Alan Nierob.

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Cahill told The Observer that money from Martin would be added to the funds raised locally for the May 16-18 run — and any left over would go for acting scholarships at the college.

Martin said he could understand how some parents might object to their 16- or 17-year-olds delivering some lines, and he said whether the play should be presented at the high school itself “remains something to be determined by the community.”

He said, though, that he believed young people could be inspired by seeing the play or, if permitted by parents, by performing in it, and that the La Grande student actors seemed to understand that the “questionable behavior sometimes evident in the play is not endorsed.”

He said he disagreed strongly with local characterizations of the play as having to do with “people drinking in bars, and treating women as sex objects.”

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