updated 10/2/2007 6:46:48 PM ET 2007-10-02T22:46:48

It was supposed to be a two-hour Shakespearean comedy show attended by 700 sixth- through 12th-graders.

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But it was not to be.

About 40 minutes into a touring company’s performance of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” a Higley Unified School District official halted the show Monday at a performing arts center.

“We stopped the show because we feel that this was inappropriate,” said Tara Kissane, the district’s director of visual and performing arts. She declined to give specifics but said “there was inappropriate language and the content was very suggestive.”

“I just thought it was over some of our kids’ heads and it wasn’t appropriate for our kids,” Kissane said. She added she thought the show would be fine for college-age students.

The play was produced by a New York-based touring company, Windwood Theatricals. Paul Bartz, the producer, said he was surprised to learn the performance was stopped.

“It’s a matter of interpretation, but they’re surely not seeing anything on that stage that they’re not seeing on television,” Bartz said Tuesday. “You might liken it to a ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch on Shakespeare.”

The group’s Web site says it’s a “whirlwind roller coaster tribute to the immortal bard. Three actors take on the daunting task of performing 37 plays and 154 sonnets in under two hours, illuminating the world of Shakespeare through the use of football, swordplay and hip-hop music.” A version ran off-Broadway in 2001-2002.

Thinking about the early parts of the play, Bartz said, “The only thing I can think of that she might have found objectionable is that there is the use of the word penis, twice.” He said if Kissane had objections, the cast could have made adjustments, but they weren’t given the chance.

Bartz said his own middle school-aged children saw a video of the original production in class, and as a parent he had no problem with it.

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