A school play at an Arizona charter school has led to controversy among the students and parents after drama students strolled across the stage in Ku Klux Klan costumes.

Arizona State University Preparatory Academy pupils put on a production of “The Foreigner” on Friday, Dec. 7, and those in attendance felt stunned by what they saw.

“Three students dressed as the KKK walked down the middle of the assembly as part of a play,” a parent, who wanted to remain anonymous at his daughter’s request, told ABC15 Arizona Monday, Dec. 10. “They were in hooded robes. Disgusted. It’s wrong in any way, shape, or form. There’s no justification for it.”

Parents felt upset that the school did not inform parents or the rest of the student body not involved in the drama department about the play. The two-act comedy with dramatic elements, which was written by American playwright Larry Shue, focuses on two Englishmen who visit a fishing lodge in Georgia and one of them refuses to speak. As such, the other tells Georgians his pal is a foreigner, according to a synopsis.

Toward the end, the characters must fend off a KKK mob.

“[Shue] specifies that the villains not be portrayed as ‘comedy villains,’” according to production notes from education resource site ThoughtCo.com. “They are members of the Klan and must be truly cunning, obsessive, and dangerous. While it is true the play is a comedy, Larry Shue is insistent that, at first, the audience must recoil before they can find the humor.”

It seems parents have largely recoiled, however, and the school has since issued a statement.

“We apologize if anyone was caught by surprise with the appearance of these characters,”  it read in part. “We are confident that a fair reading of the text of the play, and a fair interpretation of the intentions of students who performed it, reveals no endorsement of bigotry.”

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