UPDATED: Palin Beheading in Missoula Play


Days after a Missoula operetta sparked an intriguing national discussion, The Missoulian has now actuallly done a news story on the subject of the referenced beheading of Sarah Palin in a local version of “The Mikado.”   

First, to correct today’s Missoulian column by Joe Nickell- my comments were directed toward the authors of the show’s script in Missoula.  I mentioned in other blog postings how MCT would be hurt by this, but that doesn’t place the blame squarely on them.  In addition, you’ll notice that this was the line I was quoted by The Missoulian with saying:

Normally I would only post an excerpt from another source, but in this case I felt it was important to post the full text of Rory’s letter to the editor.  Especially considering the absurd and hateful rhetoric that has been used against Palin. 

The absurd and hateful rhetoric I was referencing was the constant attack Sarah Palin has been under ever since she announced her run for Vice President- especially considering the disgusting attempts by the media and other critics to link her to the Arizona shootings.  Then- of all the politicians The Mikado could have used in Missoula- they only choose one: Sarah Palin.    

I mentioned this on Facebook the other night: I am interested in knowing who else made “the list” in this version of The Mikado in Missoula. If they throw everyone in power in the satire- seems to make sense- they seemed to go after Palin…the arguments I am hearing in support of the show’s director is that Gilbert and Sullivan wanted to poke fun at the elites and aristocrats of the day. Oddly enough, it is the elites and the aristocrats who are poking fun at the hockey mom from Alaska. Seems they actually are doing the opposite of what Gilbert and Sullivan’s original intended?

As Jack Marshall also pointed out on his blog: Palin was the only politico mentioned.

The MCT made the right call last Friday.  Then again, Missoulian readers would have known that far earlier had the story been reported in the first place.  I guess bashing Sarah Palin is just old news in Missoula. Last time I checked, Rory’s Letter to the Editor was the most viewed or most discussed story in The Missoulian. 

As for the Missoula Childrens Theatre vs. Missoula Community Theatre: folks in Missoula see them as one in the same.  That would likely explain why the letters to the editor (printed by the Missoulian) and the first hand reports given to me, all stated that the show was at the Missoula Children’s Theatre.

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***Open Invite: To anyone who has video of the show from Missoula, feel free to send it my way.


A Missoula theatre has ordered the re-write of the script involved in a recent production of “The Mikado,” and apologized to theatre-goers after a reference to beheading Sarah Palin was included in the play.   

The Big Sky Blog has a compilation of more links to the Palin Beheading Play story in Missoula. 

Including this from the Executive Director of the MCT, who notes that the script has now been changed.  He also stressed that this was a Missoula Community Theatre Production, not a Missoula Children’s Theatre production.  

I am sorry that the satirical reference to Sarah Palin has offended some of our patrons. Gilbert & Sullivan were well-known as satirists, addressing the social and cultural issues of their day—aristocracy, government, etc…. Some of the lyrics performed in The Mikado around the country today reflect the issues and topics of our time. We know that “MCT” means many things to many people—and we are blessed with passionate, loyal audiences, here in Missoula and around the world. In this instance, however, we are talking about an MCT Community Theatre production (not to be confused with a Missoula Children’s Theatre production). Although MCT Community Theatre did not pen the lyrics that were found to be offensive, we have taken the action of removing them from this production. It is my hope that the audiences will appreciate the hard work, artistry and beauty within this MCT Community Theatre production of The Mikado.

Michael McGill
Executive Director
MCT, Inc.

Already, some “artistic defenders” are coming out in defense of the play’s inclusion of the Palin beheading.

Here we have it all: complete ignorance of the historical and cultural context of a few lines in a song, misapplied to a political satire in which violence is used with the levity of a Roadrunner cartoon, connected without logic or perspective to an event, the shooting in Tucson, as far removed from Gilbert and Sullivan, the Town of Titipu, and Nanki-Poo (the wandering minstrel who is really the crown prince of Japan engaged to Katisha, who has a horrible face but a left elbow that people come miles to gaze at) as the shooting in Tucson was removed from, well, Sarah Palin, by someone who doesn’t understand satire, the humor of W.S. Gilbert, or the definition of civility, culminating in a clueless Palin fan demanding an apology for a faithful production of a 19th Century British operetta. And, if the Missoula Community Theatre is as conflict averse as most arts groups, he’ll probably get it, when in truth it should be Rory who apologizes to us.*

Meanwhile, The Missoulian had this preview of the play a while back:

Premiered in 1885 at the legendary Savoy Theatre, “The Mikado” traces a convoluted tale of political and amorous entanglement involving a soft-hearted executioner, a bloodthirsty emperor and a bunch of people trying not to get caught between them.

“If you look at today’s musical theater, ‘The Mikado’ is really the grandfather to that whole tradition,” says Curt Olds, a University of Montana graduate who recently returned to his old college haunts to direct a production of the classic operetta at MCT Community Theatre. “This is the musical that really set the format, where the book is just as important as the music. It really seeded all those things to come together in the golden age of musical theater, and it’s still just as popular and fresh as the day it premiered.”

Olds says the appeal of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most popular comic opera comes from its clever combination of familiar themes, exotic setting, and absurd plot twists.

No mention of the Palin beheading in the preview.  And so far by local media- no mention of the Palin beheading in the aftermath of this ruckus that has gained national attention.  Imagine if this came from someone on the right and dealt with one of their darling political figures? 

ORIGINAL POST Aaron Flint posted on January 28, 2011 17:02

I have been on the road, and a little late at updating the website.  Today, I had a live show from Missoula, and then spoke to the Missoula Pachyderm Club at noon.  During the Q&A portion of the meeting, members of the club told me of the disgusting incident which took place at- get this of all places- The Missoula Children’s Theater. 

The Wall Street Journal already took note of a letter to the editor in today’s MissoulianThe Electric City Weblog is linking to the piece as well.   Pachyderm Club Member Keith Baer told me he was at the show last night and said once he began booing the production, several other members of the audience joined in.   

The Wall Street Journal had this:

For some perspective on the recent “debate” over “civility” and “eliminationist rhetoric,” let’s turn to Montana, home of the Missoula Children’s Theater. A recent production there gets a bad review today in a letter to the editor of the Missoulian, the local daily:

Open letter to MCT director Curt Olds:
First I would like to compliment you and the entire staff of “The Mikado” on the beautiful sets, costuming and professional performance we experienced on Sunday, Jan. 23. However, I must call you on something that was inserted into the play which I am almost positive was not in the original book.

The comments made in such a cavalier and oh-so-humorous way were uncalled for. Now, I realize you play to a mostly liberal audience in Missoula and so, I am sure, felt comfortable in your calling for the beheading of Sarah Palin. I am painfully aware that most in the audience tittered with laughter and clapped because “no one would miss her” but there were some in your audience who took great offense to this “uncivil tone” about another human being.

We are in the midst of a crisis that took place in Tucson where many started pointing fingers at that horrible right wing with all their hatred and targeting and standing for the second amendment and on and on and on. So, here we are in a lovely play with beautiful voices serenading us and we have to hear that it is okay to call for the killing of Sarah Palin because we don’t like her and no one would miss her. Unbelievable.

As a professional you should be ashamed of yourself, the audience should be ashamed of themselves and I am ashamed of myself for not standing up and leaving at that very moment. I would like to see an apology from you not because I want to hinder free-speech but for the hypocrisy this so clearly shows.

Rory Page, Clinton

Normally I would only post an excerpt from another source, but in this case I felt it was important to post the full text of Rory’s letter to the editor.  Especially considering the absurd and hateful rhetoric that has been used against Palin. 

I understand the production is taking place again tonight.  Someone bring a camera and expose these people. 

You may recall last week’s post where another Missoula liberal stated how he wished Congressman Rehberg would have died in the Flathead Lake boat crash. 

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