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Alaska theater group draws criticism for replacing ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’

Gary Sinise, left, performs a scene from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," during the 55th annual Tony Awards Sunday, June 3, 2001, at New York's Radio City Music Hall. (AP Photo/Suzanne Plunkett)

JUNEAU - An Alaska theater has removed a book-inspired play from its scheduled annual productions after concerns were raised about its content and cost, a report said.

Perseverance Theatre removed "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" in July because of its depiction of topics in indigenous culture and sexual assault and the theatre's financial limitations, the Juneau Empire reported Thursday.

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” from the novel by Ken Kesey, is told through the eyes of a Native American character written by a white man, and its main character is a convicted rapist.

Some residents who bought tickets to the show expressed that the decision could be considered censorship.

"There are a great number of writings that are now considered racist, but reflective of the time period," said Kathryn Rhinehart Curry. "We cannot and should not rewrite or ignore our history based on current values."

"Cuckoo's Nest" was scheduled from mid-January through February 2020 and will be replaced with "Silent Sky," a production that carries half the cost, managing director Frank Delaney said.

"Silent Sky" is about a little-known woman who had a significant impact on the sciences. The story has "an equally important message" that should be talked about, Delaney said.

Through this decision, Perseverance Theatre hopes to continue building and respecting relationships within the Native and mental health care communities, Perseverance Theatre art director Leslie Ishii said in a prepared statement.

The theater furloughed employees last year because of a six-figure debt that was paid by donors, the newspaper reported. The theater expects to remain in good financial status throughout the new season.

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