John Cariani is adapting his popular play Almost, Maine, a series of surreal and whimsical vignettes about the residents of a mythical town in northern Maine, into a young adult novel, Playbill reports.
The book will be published in March by Feiwel & Friends, the YA branch of Macmillan Publishing.
“It’s novelization of the play,” Cariani tells Portland Press Herald. “It’s all the stories in Almost, Maine in prose form with one new story that I had always wanted to tell but couldn’t because of time constraints.”
Almost, Maine, which premiered in 2004 at the Portland Stage Company in Maine, opened off-Broadway in 2006. Transport Group staged an acclaimed off-Broadway revival (pictured) in 2014.
The romantic comedy has become one of the most regularly produced plays in American high schools. However, it has been deemed inappropriate at some schools due to a scene titled “They Fell,” in which two weak-kneed male buddies repeatedly fall to the ground as they fall in love with each other.
In 2014 a high school in Maiden, North Carolina, canceled a production of Almost, Maine. Students claimed that some parents and local church leaders had complained that the play features a same-sex couple among its many characters.
“The play contained sexually-explicit overtones and multiple sexual innuendos that are not aligned with our mission and educational objectives,” wrote Rob Bliss, principal of Maiden High School. “I have an obligation to ensure that all material, including drama performances is appropriate and educationally sound for students of all ages.”
“I recognize that gender and sexuality issues are complicated for a public school to navigate,” wrote Cariani in an official statement. “However, parents and administrators at Maiden High School should rest assured that Almost, Maine has been presented at nearly 2,000 educational institutions all over the country with great success and without incident.”
“They should also rest assured that the scene in question, ’They Fell,’ contains no swearing and no physical contact,” he continued. “It’s a sweet, chaste, funny scene that explores the precise moment when a couple of young people—both of whom happen to be guys—fall in love. ’They Fell’ asks audiences to consider the wonder of falling in love—which is not something anyone chooses to do. It just happens. And when a young person happens to fall in love with a person of the same sex, and they’re from a place like Presque Isle, Maine (my hometown) or Maiden, North Carolina, joy doesn’t typically follow. Fear and self-loathing—the roots of homophobia—follow.”
“If Maiden High School administrators take issue with ’They Fell’ because it’s about two young men who are simply stating their feelings for one another, they are calling into question the validity of same-sex love by making it seem wrong and different and other. They are allowing a dangerous cycle of fear and self-hatred among LGBTQ youth to continue, and, consequently, they are tacitly promoting homophobia. This is simply not necessary. Nor is it helpful. We don’t need any more Tyler Clementis or Jamey Rodemeyers and Jamey Hubleys. We need kids to know that it’ll ’get better.’ Falling in love is tough enough when you’re young. Let’s remove the stigma of falling in love with someone of the same sex.”
Following a similar controversy, a Baltimore high school eventually reversed their decision to cut “They Fell” from a production of Almost, Maine in 2011 after receiving criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland.
Many videos of students performing “They Fell” can be found on YouTube.
Cariani’s other plays include cul-de-sac, Last Gas, and Love/Sick. He is a Tony nominee for his performance in the 2004 revival of Fiddler on the Roof, and his other Broadway credits include Something Rotten!, The Band’s Visit, and the upcoming revival of Caroline, or Change.
The YA book adaptation of Almost, Maine will be available March 31, 2020.