Reaction to Controversial Theatre

January 16, 2018
By Anonymous

Some of the most controversial pieces of theatre are Spring Awakening, Ragtime, and Corpus Christi. Some of these pieces are based on true events while others are original pieces. In Cherry Hill, a high school received major controversy about their spring musical Ragtime. Ragtime’s main focus is racial equality. High schools do not want to change the scripts because they could get sued but Ragtime deals with very serious racial issues and slurs. Performers of any age should be able to perform pieces without any added stress from outside opinions about controversial issues in the piece. 

In South Jersey, Cherry Hill East High School got the rights to perform the controversial piece Ragtime. School officials did not want any of the racial slurs in the work to be said because they feared the backlash from theatregoers. “After a very open and productive meeting between representatives from the East staff and the Cherry Hill African American Civic Association, we confirmed the decision to remove offensive language from the enacted script. In addition, all students at Cherry Hill High School East will participate in learning activities stemming from Ragtime in an effort to use our history to further expose the ugliness of racism.” the district said in a statement provided to by spokesman Barbara Wilson.  But the student body and other community members wanted the show and script to go unchanged. Even though the racial slurs can be offensive to some people, it is a major part of the show. The whole point of the piece is to expose the racial slurs in the society. Another major point on why they should not change it is it is against the law. The board eventually came to a decision to allow the students to portray the show as is. Original Broadway cast members responded and attended the production, which won a Courage in Theatre Award. (Gioia, Michael)

Other examples of controversial pieces are  Corpus Christi dramatizes the story of Jesus and his disciples, as gay men. The Catholic Church called this show blasphemy and Terrence McNally, the playwright, received death threats. Another example is Spring Awakening.  It is about teens discovering themselves physically and sexually. Although it has inappropriate parts, it tells a good message about suicide and teen pregnancy. Some high schools have these issues in their own communities and students should be enlightened to these issues.
As becoming a theatre major, these issues are always around. Having people’s outside opinions is stressful because you feel that no one will enjoy it because they are focused on the words said or actions done. Two out of the fourteen shows I have been in, I have played a male. The gender boundary is another controversial topic because people feel that only a boy can play, for example, Donkey in Shrek the Musical or the Leading Player in Pippin. I have received some questions on why I played some parts if they are boy parts and my answer is because they push me as a performer to step outside of my comfort zone.  Performers should be able to perform pieces how they envision it because they can push performers to their limits and show the harsh realities of some shows. Theatre goers should also be exposed to these shows to leave them with a strong message and maybe even do something about the main issue.


Article: Gioia, Michael. “New Jersey Production of Ragtime Faces Language Censorship.” Playbill, PLAYBILL INC., 24 Jan. 2017, 

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