Local Arizona Theatre Companies Tackle Adult Content in Youth Theatre

Local Arizona Theatre Companies Tackle Adult Content in Youth Theatre

How far is too far when it comes to adult content in youth theatre?

In a recent article by AZ Central, local companies have been pushing the envelope when it comes to performing shows with adult content, including Rent, Heathers the Musical, and Spring Awakening.

None of these productions involve nudity, unlike the Boston Children's Theatre's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in which a 21-year-old actor was nude for nearly half a minute in front of an audience as young as 14 and a cast as young as 15. Although the audience was warned ahead of time, the incident has lead to multiple board resignations and an artistic director's job up in the air.

Glendale's Spotlight Youth Theatre has raised eyebrows the last three years with its productions of Rent, American Idiot, and Spring Awakening. Greasepaint Youtheatre got into hot water with their production of Heathers the Musical. Artistic Director Maureen Dias-Watson said of the show, "Just days before we opened [Heathers], somebody went to our board and complained, felt that we were taking the theater in a direction that it didn't need to go and that I didn't have maybe the best interests of the theater at heart, that I was doing it for another reason. So you're going to come across that if you choose to do shows like that."

On the other side of the spectrum, BoBB Cooper of Valley Youth Theatre claims he just can't go there, saying, "I as a director do not feel it is my responsibility to have a dialogue with a young person about subject matter that should be left to the parents. So to do a scene that is dealing with sex - I mean, I have trouble even just communicating a kiss and the emotion of love and attraction, let alone talking through a scene where they're having sex. There's no way I could ever do anything like that."

Theater mom Allyson Ochs Primack, who has nothing but praise for all three companies, puts it best, stating, ""You as the parent can help decide what you think is appropriate for your child to perform. Nobody is forcing them to try out for these shows, and nobody is forcing the audience to see them. ... There are so many choices out there for these kids, so if they don't want to be in a show or the parents don't want them to be in a show like that, there is a wealth of other theaters and shows that they can participate in."

Photo credit: Joanne Wastchak

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