High school plays have been a beloved tradition in communities across the country for generations. But in recent years, a growing number of schools have faced backlash and controversy over their choice of productions, leading some to cancel shows altogether. The latest casualty in the culture wars? High school theater.
Recently, two high schools in Connecticut made headlines after canceling their spring musical productions due to community backlash. The first, a Catholic school, canceled their production of “The Laramie Project,” a play that examines the aftermath of the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay man, in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998. The school faced criticism from conservative groups and parents who argued that the play promoted a “homosexual agenda” and was inappropriate for high school students.
The second school, a public high school, canceled their production of “In the Heights,” a Tony award-winning musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda that celebrates the Latinx community in New York City. The school faced criticism from some members of the Latinx community who argued that the production included racial stereotypes and was culturally insensitive.
These cancellations are not isolated incidents. In recent years, high schools across the country have faced controversy over their choice of productions, with some schools canceling shows or changing scripts to avoid offending community members or groups.
So why are high school plays becoming a battleground in the culture wars? One reason may be the increased politicization of art and culture in our society. In an era of heightened political polarization, everything from sports to entertainment to education has become a flashpoint for partisan debates. And with social media providing a platform for anyone to voice their opinions and grievances, even small controversies can quickly spiral into national news stories.
Another factor may be the changing demographics of our country. As our population becomes more diverse, schools and communities are grappling with how to navigate cultural differences and sensitivities. What may be acceptable or even celebrated in one community may be seen as offensive or inappropriate in another.
So where do we go from here? Some argue that schools should stick to safer, more neutral productions that are less likely to generate controversy. But others argue that high school theater is a valuable opportunity to explore difficult topics and spark important conversations, even if those conversations are uncomfortable or controversial.
Ultimately, the decision about what plays to produce should be made by educators, students, and community members, not outside groups or individuals with political agendas. And while it’s important to be sensitive to cultural differences and avoid perpetuating harmful stereotypes, we should also be wary of allowing the culture wars to dictate what art is acceptable and what is not.
In the end, high school plays are not just entertainment. They are an important part of our cultural heritage, a way for young people to express themselves and explore the world around them. By allowing fear and division to dictate what productions are allowed, we risk robbing our youth of the opportunity to learn, grow, and engage with each other in meaningful ways. It’s time to put the culture wars aside and let high school theater thrive once again.
High school plays have long been a beloved tradition in communities across the country. However, in recent years, these productions have become increasingly politicized and controversial, with some schools canceling shows or changing scripts to avoid offending community members or groups. The reasons for this trend are complex, but may be related to the increasing polarization of our society and the changing demographics of our country. Ultimately, the decision about what plays to produce should be made by educators, students, and community members, not outside groups or individuals with political agendas. By allowing fear and division to dictate what productions are allowed, we risk robbing our youth of the opportunity to learn, grow, and engage with each other in meaningful ways. It