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BWW Blog: Censorship in Educational Th***re

BWW Blog: Censorship in Educational Th***re
The original Broadway cast of
Spring Awakening.

Theatre is created to tell important stories, break barriers, build connections. These are what make shows like Spring Awakening, Next to Normal, and Heathers so important to both performers and audiences. They address significant topics like mental illness, suicide, death, sexuality, and shame. These shows are important and necessary, but are unfortunately often not performed or are greatly censored in high schools, and even some colleges.

Many high schools don't even think about producing riskier shows, and instead produce more shallow, "fun" shows like The Music Man and Grease. School theatre directors don't want to make parents or students uncomfortable, which is understandable, but isn't theatre meant to move us? There is a place for fun, less complex shows, but high schoolers are changing and growing and learning what kind of people they want to be. Complex and riskier shows cannot only lead to a better understanding of ourselves and the world, but can provide comfort and relief to see that we are not alone in the issues that we deal with. Producing shows that deal heavily in difficult topics like mental illness and sexuality allows for important conversations for not only students, but adults as well.

BWW Blog: Censorship in Educational Th***re
Royal Caribbean Cast of "Grease"

One of the more often-produced shows for high school theatres is the lovable, but slightly problematic, Grease. Don't get me wrong, I think the show is a lot of fun, the characters are pretty dimensional, and the music is great. Unfortunately, the themes are not great for young adults. In the show, Sandy falls for Danny, but feels she needs to change who she is to make him happy. And she does. And that's how the show ends. There is no "it's okay, I love you for who you are." This teaches students that changing who you are to fit a mold or fit what you think someone wants will provide satisfactory results. This is incredibly damaging to a young person's self image. But yet a show like Spring Awakening would never be performed at most high schools because it sheds a light on toxic authority, teen pregnancy, homosexuality, and abuse. These are the topics that students need to be learning about and understanding. A bit ironic that adults don't want to produce Spring Awakening considering the show's main theme, huh? What better way to get a necessary conversation started than by theatre?

Some schools opt for junior or "school edition" productions of edgier shows. This means that the more risque content is cut or altered to make a show "appropriate" for students. (Why are topics like suicide and sexuality not appropriate for teenagers?) While this is a smart alternative to allow students and directors to produce heavier shows, it still compromises the artistic integrity of the shows. Is it worth producing if much of the important discussions that go with the show can't be had? Cutting parts of a show may seem like a good idea overall to allow for productions in the school setting, but it ultimately tends to water down the themes and necessary topics.

What we don't address and talk about has just as much of an effect on students as what we do talk about, and is often more negative. Producing heavier shows like Spring Awakening or Heathers in schools allows for important and necessary conversations to be had in a safe environment. Topics like abuse, mental illness, suicide, and sexuality should not and cannot be watered down. Theatre is meant to not only tell stories, break barriers, and build connections, but to create conversations. Significant conversations cannot be had if schools, parents, and directors are too afraid to be uncomfortable.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Gillian Lintz