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BWW Blog: Opinion - Censored Musicals and Plays Have No Business in a High School

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This idea that students should be allowed to do PG-13 versions of musicals isn’t a new concept.

BWW Blog: Opinion - Censored Musicals and Plays Have No Business in a High School

When I was in high school I was a dedicated (and sometimes incredibly obsessed) member of all my performance based classes and I was very close with my teacher who directed a majority of the shows during those four years. This allowed me to be very knowledgeable about the inner workings of the program, and where the program stood with the administration, who at every turn, would turn down any musical that they deemed inappropriate. The one that always stood out to me was Grease.

Now, I get it Grease is filled with crude and at times perverse language, so I can somewhat understand if high schools wanted to turn down the references to non-consensual romantic and sexual acts, but the Jr. version it removes all profanity, lewd behavior, and it removes the pregnancy scare. With the removal of the pregnancy scare they also remove the arguably most iconic song from the musical "There are Worse Things I Could do".

We see this time and time again, where musicals that center on an experience or adult humor get so watered down that they render their existence pointless. Musicals like Heathers that removes also removes all profanity, and references to drinking or recreational drug use, the only thing I think it does accurately is instead of removing all the R-rated sexual scenes all together, it dulls it down to what's described as PG-13. Avenue Q has made a high school version that again removes all swearing, a few songs, and changes character names in an attempt to make it more PG-13, but even then a High School located in Pennsylvania in 2017 was set to put on the production and was shut down by the school district superintendent.

I can understand choosing to do a Jr. version with junior aged students, or even choosing a few nights to do a more 'family friendly' show for all members of the community, but in high school it doesn't make sense that the students come into contact with profanity, alcohol, drugs, sex, teen pregnancy, sexuality and gender in everyday life, and in most cases in health classes at the very same high school, only to be told that those truths can't be experienced in a musical theatre class.

This idea that students should be allowed to do PG-13 versions of musicals isn't a new concept. Other bloggers have written countless reasons as to why it's not ideal to censor musicals, and it's even been the storyline for the TV show Rise that focuses on a high school attempting to put on Spring Awakening only to be censored at the last minute.

The reason musicals are censored in high school should be based on the actors consent as to whether they are comfortable performing or saying the lines that could be 'junior-ized'.

Theatre in schools has always been celebrated as a safe space and part of that should be the safety to learn and explore the realities high schoolers face everyday, and to tell students they can't is to underestimate their intelligence, and to deprive them of a healthy environment to release their feelings surrounding these subjects that are often labeled as 'taboo'.

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