A high school teacher in the suburbs of Phoenix was suspended with pay this week after parents complained that he assigned a play in an advanced theater class about a wealthy, married, middle-aged family man who has a steamy, obsessive, six-month-long love affair with a goat.
The dramatic piece at issue is “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?” by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee. Cactus Shadows High School drama teacher Andrew Cupo had students read it aloud in class, reports The Arizona Republic. There was no public performance.
In addition to a plot revolving around a man named Martin who has sex with Sylvia the goat, the play involves quite a bit of vulgarity and explores a slew of taboo subjects including bestiality, of course, and incest. Martin and his wife have a gay son. There’s a sensual embrace between the son and his goat-loving father. At the end of the play, Martin’s wife — covered in blood — delivers the remains of Sylvia to Martin, who responds by weeping.
Many critics have suggested that “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?” is an absurdist parable about society’s acceptance of homosexuality.
The play premiered on Broadway in 2002 and ran for just over 300 performances. Bill Pullman and Sally Field appeared at various times as the leads. It was a dud financially.
The kerfuffle at Cactus Shadows High began last weekend when a parent registered a complaint with members of the local school board.
Then, on Monday, 10 parents paid a visit to Cactus Shadows High to express their disapproval, asking for the school resource officer — basically, the school’s cop – who then interviewed students in Cupo’s class.
The students were generally supportive of their teacher.
“We were asked what we thought of Mr. Cupo teaching bestiality,” one of the interviewed students, Jacob Emnett, told The Republic. “Ironic that they spoke to us of bestiality without the consent of our parents, the same act they condemn Mr. Cupo for.”
“This play was introduced to us as an absurdist play—absurd being a really key word,” added another student interviewee, Andrew Rimmer. “It wasn’t introduced as some sort of lesson to teach us something. It was introduced to us as a work of art.”