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'Ragtime' Resolution

Two weeks ago the Chicago Sun-Times ran a story about the executive director of a park district in Wilmette, Ill., who canceled a scheduled outdoor production of Ragtime, because the book and lyrics contained the N-word. Tom Grisamore was worried folks passing by the outdoor theatre would hear the racial epithet out of context and would be offended. The matter seems to have been resolved with a suitable compromise, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Grisamore raised an interesting point about the dustup in his conversation with the Journal: "Not one of the newspapers that has criticized us could publish the words that we were being told we should say in the Bowl."

Then again, there is a difference between a person or an institution choosing for oneself not to write or speak something (often known as "editing" or "taste") and a governmental body or official telling others what they cannot write or speak ("censorship").

Question: Should there be a different set of rules for the staging of indoor shows and outdoor shows?

--Andrew Salomon

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