Adam Rapp Transforms His Brush with Censorship Into a New Play

In the spring of 2005, I received a call from Bruce Weber of The New York Times telling me he was about to travel to Reading, Pennsylvania, where my young adult novel The Buffalo Tree had caused a bit of a stir. The novel, published by Front Street Books in 1997, was a part of the English curriculum at Muhlenberg High School, and a young woman, purportedly “puppeteered” by a local Christian group, quoted passages from the novel containing sexual content and foul language in front of the local school board. The book was immediately pulled off of shelves, wrested from student hands, and all copies were banished to a large vault.

Mr. Weber told me there was going to be a town meeting to discuss the improper procedure implemented in “banning” the book. He said that the major players on both sides would be present, and he asked me if I was going to attend. This was certainly a shock to me. I couldn’t go. I was in Chicago and about to start tech rehearsals for the world premiere of my play Red Light Winter at Steppenwolf. We’d only had three and a half weeks of rehearsal, and I was directing. This isn’t much time to get things up to speed, and I told Mr. Weber as much. He called me from the meeting and put one of the students on the phone with me. She had apparently stood up in front of her community and offered her copy, which she owned, to the library so that other kids could continue reading the book. She was extremely excited to talk to me, and I was moved to tears…

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