Censorship In High School Theatre

Censorship In High School Theatre

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

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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.

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The Coach That Killed My Passion

An open letter to the coach that made me hate a sport I once loved.
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I fell in love with the game in second grade. I lived for every practice and every game. I lived for the countless hours in the gym or my driveway perfecting every shot, every pass and every move I could think of. Every night after dinner, I would go shoot and would not allow myself to go inside until I hit a hundred shots. I had a desire to play, to get better and to be the best basketball player I could possibly be.

I had many coaches between church leagues, rec leagues, personal coaches, basketball camps, middle school and high school. Most of the coaches I had the opportunity to play for had a passion for the game like I did. They inspired me to never stop working. They would tell me I had a natural ability. I took pride in knowing that I worked hard and I took pride in the compliments that I got from my coaches and other parents. I always looked forward to the drills and, believe it or not, I even looked forward to the running. These coaches had a desire to teach, and I had a desire to learn through every good and bad thing that happened during many seasons. Thank you to the coaches that coached and supported me through the years.

SEE ALSO: My Regrets From My Time As A College Softball Player

Along with the good coaches, are a few bad coaches. These are the coaches that focused on favorites instead of the good of the entire team. I had coaches that no matter how hard I worked, it would never be good enough for them. I had coaches that would take insults too far on the court and in the classroom.

I had coaches that killed my passion and love for the game of basketball.

When a passion dies, it is quite possibly the most heartbreaking thing ever. A desire you once had to play every second of the day is gone; it turns into dreading every practice and game. It turns into leaving every game with earphones in so other parents don't talk to you about it. It meant dreading school the next day due to everyone talking about the previous game. My passion was destroyed when a coach looked at me in the eyes and said, "You could go to any other school and start varsity, but you just can't play for me."

SEE ALSO: Should College Athletes Be Limited To One Sport?

Looking back now at the amount of tears shed after practices and games, I just want to say to this coach: Making me feel bad about myself doesn't make me want to play and work hard for you, whether in the classroom or on the court. Telling me that, "Hard work always pays off" and not keeping that word doesn't make me want to work hard either. I spent every minute of the day focusing on making sure you didn't see the pain that I felt, and all of my energy was put towards that fake smile when I said I was OK with how you treated me. There are not words for the feeling I got when parents of teammates asked why I didn't play more or why I got pulled after one mistake; I simply didn't have an answer. The way you made me feel about myself and my ability to play ball made me hate myself; not only did you make me doubt my ability to play, you turned my teammates against me to where they didn't trust my abilities. I would not wish the pain you caused me on my greatest enemy. I pray that one day, eventually, when all of your players quit coming back that you realize that it isn't all about winning records. It’s about the players. You can have winning records without a good coach if you have a good team, but you won’t have a team if you can't treat players with the respect they deserve.

SEE ALSO: To The Little Girl Picking Up A Basketball For The First Time


Cover Image Credit: Equality Charter School

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An Open Letter To The Senior Athlete Starting Her Last Spring Sports Season

Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.

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It's never easy to say goodbye, and one of the hardest things to let go of after high school was varsity sports, and for me the sport I loved most was lacrosse. I played when my school was first introducing lacrosse to the district, from seventh grade until my final senior season. It was some of the best times I ever had in high school, and I had so many amazing teammates to share it with. But this letter isn't for me. This goes out to any high school senior with a similar story, about to enter your last season in those uniforms, with those teammates, playing the sport you love. Make sure you don't forget to look around and cherish it.

As a senior, you might be ready to move on to college and leave high school behind, but once it's over I guarantee you'll miss at least some of it. Make sure you don't get too caught up in winning and championships and simply enjoy the time you have with your team. I look back on those long bus rides to away games when the whole team would laugh and talk and my coach would call us out for not being focused. Those times with my teammates were unbeatable, and I'd give anything to feel that type of bond with my team again. We suffered many losses, but we supported each other through it all and always came out with smiles on our faces. In your last sports season, the best thing to do is cherish these bonds and make sure you never take them for granted.

For any senior who knows they won't be going on to play division or club sports in college, this could be the last time you have that type of close team relationship. Not to mention the last feelings of excitement on game day, the satisfaction of seeing familiar faces in the crowd at your home turf, and the accomplishment of getting through a hard day's practice with some of your best friends. Hold onto each and every one of those feelings.

It definitely gets hard at times with everything you have going on your senior year, from getting ready for school or a job after graduation to making memories with your friends. Let's not forget all the homework and final projects coming up at the end of the school year. When you look back on high school you'll want to be sure that you put all you could into your last sports season, and gotten everything you could out of it.

On those off days when the last thing you want to do is practice or play through a game, remind yourself of how important this sport and your team is to you, push through it, and take every positive away from it that you can. It won't be long until you're playing your last game and saying goodbye to the team and the sport you love so much. Thank your coaches for all they do, hug your teammates after every game and play as hard as you possibly can. If you don't, you'll wish you had.

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