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A New York high school has canceled its 'Tarzan' musical production after racism complaints

Updated 7:57 PM ET, Mon December 9, 2019

New York (CNN) - A high school in Elmsford, New York, has canceled its spring musical production of "Disney's Tarzan" after school community members complained about the racial undertones.

Students had reacted with "delight" when Alexander Hamilton High School's drama club announced the Tarzan musical, according to a news release from the school district.

But plans changed after "further consideration of the source material, upon which the story was derived," the district said.

"Some members of our school community had expressed concerns over the racial undertones of the source material, and the district agreed to reconsider the choice," it said.

"Tarzan of the Apes," a novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, was published in 1912. The story of Tarzan follows the journey of young orphan boy who grows up in an African jungle and is raised by apes, struggling to survive in a savage African world.

The novel and its film adaptations have been criticized for their racist depiction of colonialism, imperialism and African natives.

Parents were concerned that students of color would play ape characters, according to the Journal News newspaper.

"We have shared with students and parents how important it is that all their voices be heard," Elmsford Union Free School District Superintendent Marc Baiocco said. "The district wants to ensure that it has created an inclusive environment in which all students can grow and thrive."

Instead of "Tarzan," the drama club plans in March to stage a musical adaptation of "Twelfth Night" that was performed at Shakespeare in the Park.

"We feel this show is a better fit for our student population and will offer our students a special experience in theater production where they can use and develop their talents," Baiocco said.


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