Univ. rescinds stage weapons ban

Stage weapons will again be allowed in University theatrical productions, in a reversal of last week’s ban, Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said Tuesday morning.

Administrators decided Monday afternoon to require that audiences instead be informed of the use of stage weapons before the start of every performance, she said. In the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre, which left 33 students dead last Monday, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg had told students that they would be required to substitute obviously fake props for realistic stage weapons in theatrical productions.

Klasky said the University reversed the policy because of concerns about free speech.

“As an institution that has always valued free speech, we wanted to uphold the principles that we have always adhered to,” she said.

Klasky said the policy of announcing the use of stage weapons in advance will hold for all future campus productions.

The ban affected at least two shows that went up over the weekend: the play “Red Noses” and the opera “Orpheus in the Underworld,” and attracted national media attention as well as causing a stir among students involved in theater on campus. Several students complained that the requirement infringed on their free speech, while others pointed out that the policy was unlikely to assuage anxiety about Virginia Tech.

But over the weekend, Trachtenberg, who is retiring at the end of the academic year, said student criticism of the stage weapons ban had been exaggerated.

“I think people should start thinking about other people rather than trying to feel sorry for themselves and thinking that the administration is trying to thwart their creativity,” Trachtenberg said. “They’re not using their own intelligence. … We have to think of the people who might be affected by seeing real-life weapons.”

Klasky declined to name the people involved in making Monday’s decision.

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