Buster the Bunny is back...off Broadway

Do you remember the Postcards from Buster controversy of 2005? A popular PBS children's television show--funded in part by a "Ready to Learn" grant from the U.S. Department of Education--was preparing to air a segment in which a (cartoon) bunny visits a (real) married lesbian couple in Vermont. The career staff at the Department caught wind of this, passed the news up the chain of command (a chain that yes, included me), a big internal debate ensued about what to do, urgent phone calls were placed, and eventually (and, in my view, quite regrettably), Margaret Spellings, in her first official act as Secretary of Education, sent a letter to the head of PBS saying that "many parents would not want their young children exposed to the life-styles portrayed in this episode." (The letter itself was overkill; the Secretary's office had already learned that PBS was pulling the show. Nor was it necessary to use the "life-styles" code word. But Spellings and her inner circle apparently saw an opportunity to score points with the religious right.)

The whole ugly affair (and my bit part in it ) convinced me that it was time to leave government service for the greener pastures of the Fordham Institute (a decision I have regretted not one day).

OK, enough about me. The point is... this riveting story is now being turned into a play, Dusty and the Big Bad World ! So I learned from this Weekend Edition Saturday segment on NPR. Here's the synopsis; sound familiar?

"Dusty" is the most popular animated PBS children's television show in America. But when Dusty--the genial hero of the program--goes to visit a family with two daddies, the big bad world brings the hammer down--hard. Based on actual events, Dusty is a hilarious, no-holds-barred dramatization of the clash between freedom of speech, art (or at least kids' TV), and politics.

The play, written by Cusi Cram , will be produced by the Denver Theater Company in early 2009. Spellings should have more time on her hands by then; perhaps she should get some tickets.

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