Controversial High School Plays

For years there have been many high school productions portraying controversial topics for high school students. Let’s go over a few productions that may have caused some disputes with parents and/or school faculty and administration.

‘Rent’ by Jonathan Larson

The high school edition of this musical is popular among many high schools around the country. However, this has not stopped schools around the U.S. from canceling, or attempting to cancel this production. In the past there have been records of schools in California, West Virginia, Minnesota, and Texas –among others – trying to shut down the performance due to its controversial content including the mention of homosexuality, theft, HIV and aids and illegal drugs. Regardless of these challenges, school directors have fought for the acceptance of this play as it can also serve as a teaching tool for young adults and provides challenging roles for young actors.

‘Sweeney Todd’ by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler

This production is also a popular one among many high schools. The issue with this one, of course, is the dark subject matter including: murder, cannibalism, rape, and suicide. Even though a high school edition was made, schools like one in New Hampshire have attempted to shut the production down. After discussions stating that ‘Sweeney Todd’ is more about injustice, morality and greed, along with stressing its importance in the theatrical and musical development for students, the musical has become more accepted.

‘Bang Bang You’re Dead’ by William Mastrosimone

This is a one-man play written about a school shooting as a reaction from the writer towards threats of violence at his son’s school. The production of this play has brought controversy due to the many school shootings that have occurred around the country for many years. Although other parents and faculty members may feel like this play is too violent, the production was written in order to raise awareness on the importance of taking violence in schools more seriously.

‘Higher Ground’ by Jennie Brown

This play also ties in with school violence, but in a different direction. Jennie Brown, an Oregon drama teacher, had her play production banned from the school she worked in due to its ‘adult content’ such as homophobia, racism, bullying, and intimidation. After much discussion about this production, students decided to vote against the ban because they thought that it censored what actually goes on in their lives and even in their school. Although the production was not allowed in their school, Brown was still able to direct it off school grounds.

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