Censorship In High School Theatre

Censorship In High School Theatre

...and why it's complete and utter crap.


In theatre, artists are taught from a young age to express themselves and to make a statement with their work.

Freedom of speech and expression, although basic human rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, are specifically reinforced by those in any given theatre community. However, all too often in high school theatre, administrators attempt to limit this freedom of expression by censoring the material that is put out by theatre departments.

If the recent NBC TV show "Rise" was any indicator, high school theatre teachers are no strangers to opposition from administrators and their communities alike when it comes to performing the more "risqué" shows. In "Rise," a high school English teacher takes over his school's failing theatre program, canceling their production of the fading "Grease" and replacing it with the newer and exciting "Spring Awakening." The censorship displayed by administrators in school districts across the country is not only a disservice to the community at large but to the artists that these programs are charged with nurturing.

It is apparent that in recent years, high school theatre programs have experienced numerous obstacles, specifically when it comes to their show selection. While shows like "Grease" are staples of American musical theatre and provide fantastic showcases for student's talents, they also normalize negative messages concerning sexism and abusive relationships through several undertones presented.

Grease- You're the one that I want [HQ+lyrics] www.youtube.com

Newer, contemporary shows such as "Spring Awakening" also present these negative messages but make it clear to the audience that it is not normal and should never be. By giving students the opportunity to perform in these progressive shows, they are being given a voice to express themselves.

The Dark I Know Well www.youtube.com

Often, the more progressive shows have contemporary themes that better relate to students of the current generation. If students are able to feel represented by the characters that they are portraying, they will be better able to communicate what the show is intending to say. Not to mention, by producing shows that have contemporary themes, students from other interests and walks of life might be more convinced to give theatre a try. The more diverse a theatre program is, the more that different and unique perspectives are being shared. Despite the numerous obstacles facing high schools and their theatre programs, there is almost always a rebuttal that can be used.

However, time after time, shows like "Grease" are chosen to be put on by schools despite the numerous arguments not to. The "buzz" and popularity surrounding the Golden Age musicals such as "Grease" and "Bye Bye Birdie" is certainly enough to sell out numerous performances. These musicals and their storylines (usually about the "ideal" American family, the all-American football player and his cheerleader girlfriend, etc.) appeal to the majority of theatre-goers: white, heterosexual, upper-middle-class families. However, if these musicals are the only ones presented, then a plateau will be reached and there will be no room for new and exciting ideas to be brought to the table.

The fear with producing shows like "Spring Awakening" is that the content (which has storylines consisting of parental abuse, homosexuality, rape, abortion, etc.) will encourage the kids participating in the production to pursue these lifestyles. Likewise, producing "Grease" and "Bye Bye Birdie" can also encourage unhealthy mindsets and habits such as changing everything about a female's appearance to "get the guy," glorifying the "perfect" female body, or encouraging a hypermasculine persona for young men. Many of the shows in the Golden Age catalog (that are routinely suggested by high schools) subconsciously resort youth back to a rather backward way of thinking.

Grease - Summer Nights HD www.youtube.com

High schools and their administrators worry about the backlash a theatrical production can receive from the surrounding community; however, these topics and themes are already alive and well in their schools through various mediums. In English curriculums, novels such as "The Great Gatsby," "To Kill a Mockingbird," and "The Crucible" offer a wide range of content including rape, murder, spousal abuse, racism, and other unfavorable material. For administrators and communities to allow one artistic medium and censor another is a major disservice to the students involved. In general, censorship, regardless of the reasoning involved, does more harm than good whenever students and growing minds are involved.

Expression through theatrical means can only continue at the high school level if their administrators allow their students the means to do so. Censoring theatre at any level due to a fear of the unknown or possible backlash does more harm than good. For administrators to take away the ability of high school theatre teachers to decide what is appropriate for their students to perform is a major disservice. The lessons that exist in shows that feature controversial storylines can be so impactful in a young person's life. By limiting this freedom of exploration, a learning opportunity is being taken away from young people. One day, these young people will grow up and be the leaders of our community. They will be the ones making decisions and leading the conversation.

Censoring freedom of expression even in the smallest of ways will no doubt have a profound effect on not only the theatre of today but the theatre of tomorrow.

Popular Right Now

10 Things I Learned From Growing Up In A Town Smaller Than A College Campus

A town straight out of a country song.


With a population of just over 1,000, my hometown has given me so much in my 19 years of life. It's taught me things I would've never learned anywhere else (whether that be good or bad).

1. You know everyone and everyone knows you

This is so true, especially if you're a part of a big family. You're not only somehow related to everyone, but everyone knows which family you belong to. I can't go anywhere in town without at least one person recognizing me (which isn't a bad thing). If you were in the newspaper, there's a slight chance that multiple people will tell you as soon as they see you.

2. High school sports (especially football) are no joke 

As someone who cheered for four years, there's truly nothing like home football games. The sound of the crowd roaring behind you, the tunnel at the beginning of the games, and the sunsets gleaming onto the field. My senior year the football team almost went to state for the first time in 22 years. It was a HUGE deal for the community. The football players were like local celebrities and it was such an exciting time for everyone. There truly isn't anything better the spirit that surrounds small-town sports.

3. High school homecoming is a big deal for everyone

Unlike larger schools, basketball and football homecomings in my small town were like one big reunion for everyone. We have an elaborate theme for each homecoming and the Stu-co spent all day decorating it. The gym and sidelines were usually packed with people coming home to see old friends, to find out which candidate gets crowned queen, and to cheer on the athletes.

4. You live about an hour from just about everything

When I tell my college friends that I live an hour from the nearest Target, they think I'm joking. I'm being completely serious. If you needed some new clothes and shoes for school you had to make a whole day out of it. You also tried to schedule all of your doctors' appointments around the same time so you didn't have to make so many trips. An idea of a family outing meant going to a nice restaurant in "the big city" and seeing the newest movie. Something fun to do with my friends meant driving 30 minutes to get coffee, Sonic, or even just fooling around in Walmart. If we were really desperate, we even cruised the backroads listening to our favorite music.

5. You have so much respect for farmers and agriculture

I come from a family of farmers and my good friends in high school were daughters of cattle and dairy farmers. The farmers in my town are some of the kindest, smartest and most hardworking people I will probably ever meet. Seeing agriculture work in and out of my town has caused me to have so much respect for farmers and the industry. I've been caught behind a tractor and learned the hard way to not stop close to a stop-sign if a semi is turning my way. Yet I truly wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

6. High school relationships can get a little tricky

Dating in a high school of 100-something people was pretty hard. They were either related to you, taken, or like a brother to you. If you did find someone to talk to, there's a 90% chance that they've also talked to one of your friends. Most of the drama in my high school was an effect of someone dating someone else's ex.

7. You know everyone you graduated with

You don't just know them, you really know them. You know their full names, what their families do for a living, and who showed up at their kids' sporting events and who didn't. When you graduate with only 30-something other kids, it's hard not to know everyone on a super personal level.

8. When times get tough, people are always there for you

When a family of the community suddenly lost a loved one, the community immediately wrapped their arms around them and comforted them. Whether it was bringing meals to the grieving family, selling memorial T-shirts and bracelets, housing benefit dinners, or just being there for the family. If you were going through something heavy, someone always had your back.

9. You feel so loved coming home from college

I remember sitting in a lecture hall half the size of my hometown on the first day of classes and feeling overwhelmed. I thought, "How is anybody supposed to make friends at a college of 35,000 people?"

The first night home from college, I was welcomed home with open arms by everyone. I was reunited with former teachers, coaches, classmates, old friends and adults of the community. As much as I love college, it was so nice coming home to a place where everyone knows me.

10.  You couldn't of asked for a better upbringing

As much as I was ready to move to a bigger place after high school, growing up in a small town was the best thing I could ask for. It gave me a sense of community, support, and love that I wouldn't have been able to get elsewhere. My town sent me to college with enough support and encouragement to last a lifetime.

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

How High School Destroyed My Self Esteem

Where did the confidence go?


Not too long ago my parents recovered a collection of home videos from my childhood, and recently, myself and the rest of my family have been taking the time to watch them. It has been quite an experience watching footage of a baby me crawling across the carpet or taking my first steps, but the videos of myself that I find I am most interested in watching are the videos of me when I was a little older, around elementary school age.

As is demonstrated in the multitude of videos featuring me dancing around my kitchen and finding ridiculous ways to get the attention of the camera, I was an outgoing, funny, and lively young girl. I didn't shy away from being the center of attention and was something of a comedian when the camera was turned my way. However, the reason I found these videos so interesting to watch was not just because I found my younger self hilarious. Instead, I was fascinated by the smaller me's enormous personality, because it is such a deviation from the way I am now. This led me to wonder, where did that girl go?

High school is a difficult time for all who experience it. Students face pressure to do well in their classes and meet expectations so that they can get into a good college, which often results in massive amounts of stress and anxiety. However, there are other, social, factors that make high school feel like a battlefield, factors that I, personally, had a difficult time overcoming and still affect me to this day.

When I look back on my four years of high school I realize that I placed far too much importance on popularity and fitting in. I had a set group of friends throughout high school and our group could be considered decently popular, which, at the time, quelled my anxieties about being unliked or alone. Because of these anxieties, I was desperate to keep my friends, even it meant spending time with people I didn't like or didn't make me feel good about myself, and had to teach myself lessons like hiding my true self in order to fit in. This resulted in much unhappiness because many of the friends that I had chosen to be with weren't great at being friends. They were mean, selfish, and often tore me down instead of showing me the support an insecure teenager needed from her friends.

As a result of having mediocre friends, it was often hard to feel like I had a support system when it came to dealing with the problems every teenager faces. Insecurities and lack of understanding about my own body led to weight, which didn't help boost my confidence either. To add to this, my friends, who I believed to be skinnier and prettier than me would often express dislike for the way they looked, which led me to believe that I had no reason to be confident in myself.

This culture of insulting oneself also increased my insecurity, as it left me feeling like I wasn't permitted to have confidence in myself, and instead had to tear myself down whenever I got the chance. Reflecting these negative feelings about myself instead of promoting body positivity warped my mind and made me feel unable to like the skin I was living in. There was no one to tell me that I was allowed to let myself feel good, to look in the mirror and like the girl that looked back at me. Instead, I felt pressure to conform.

So, to answer the previously posed question of where the little girl in the home videos went, here's the answer:

She didn't disappear. She was simply torn down by too many people, especially herself.

Related Content

Facebook Comments