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Drama teacher is leaving Burroughs

Instructor Scott Bailey, who would have been reassigned as only an English teacher, moves to Van Nuys charter school.

July 12, 2008|By Angela Hokanson

Some parents were concerned about what they considered to be the overly sexualized nature of the play — phallic imagery of swords, and a kissing scene between Romeo and Juliet, who were both played by girls, Bailey said. Another mother was concerned about the French maid costumes chosen for students who played servants, he said.

Mike Delbarian, whose son was in the play, was particularly offended by a scene in which he says actors took off plastic long-nose masks, set them on the floor and pretended to be masturbating the masks.

“It was just unbelievable,” he said. “It’s not ‘Romeo and Juliet.’”

But some parents and drama students jumped to Bailey’s defense when his role as drama instructor was taken away. A group of parents and students spoke out in support of Bailey at a school board meeting earlier this spring.

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Madison DiNapoli, the 17-year-old who played Romeo in the play, was at that school board meeting to show her support for Bailey, whom she considers an amazing teacher.

The play wasn’t overly sexual, in her estimation. If there was sexual innuendo, that’s because Shakespeare wrote it that way, she said.

“It’s read by freshmen all over the country,” she said.

The decision to cast a girl as Romeo was not made to be intentionally provocative, she said, but rather because she showed herself to be the strongest choice for the part. Madison plans to study theater at Cal State Northridge in the fall.

Jenna Tamimi, 18, who played a nurse in “Romeo and Juliet,” said Bailey would be greatly missed.

“I think it’s a huge loss for the students at John Burroughs. Not just for the theater program, but also for the English department,” she said.

While Bailey said the controversy over “Romeo and Juliet” might have sparked Urioste’s decision to remove him from his role in theater at the school, it also wasn’t the first time the two educators had been at odds over plays.

Earlier in the year, Bailey and Urioste had butted heads over whether it would be appropriate for the students to put “The Laramie Project,” a play based on the true story of the slaying of a gay University of Wyoming student, Matthew Shepard.

Bailey suggested that students perform that show, but Urioste rejected the idea, Bailey said. A group of students went on to direct that show in their free time and put it on at the Colony Theatre in May.

“He’s had a problem with me for a long time,” Bailey said.

Bailey’s soon-to-be principal at CHAMPS, Norman Isaacs, said he saw the school’s production of “Romeo and Juliet” and thought it was entirely appropriate.

He said Bailey seemed like the kind of educator who was willing to take risks and motivate students.

“Teaching is acting, and getting kids involved,” Isaacs said.


 ANGELA HOKANSON covers education. She may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at angelahokanson@latimes.com.

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