CMU School of Drama

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Parents who censor high school theater are morons

New York Post: The terrific 1972 musical “Pippin” begins with a call from a charismatic leading player to “join us.” What ensues is a wild, funny, inclusive coming-of-age story about the son of Charlemagne, with a score by Stephen Schwartz, the composer of other excellent titles like “Wicked” and “Godspell.”

But, according to a report in the Cape May County Herald, a group of 140 community members in Middle Township, NJ, would like you to join them — against this harmless musical.

8 comments:

Angel Zhou said...

If parents believe “Pippin” is an overly-profane musical, I can only wonder how parents who come to Scotch’n’Soda’s “Heathers” during Carnival this year will react. I don’t want to disrespect Sue Sterling’s beliefs as a Christian woman, but unless the school is religious (in this case I do not know), I don’t believe they have any obligation to cater to Sue’s religious beliefs. For example, if an atheist attends Middle Township High School and his or her parents take offense from a musical that highlights parts of Christianity, does the school side with Sue or the atheist student’s parents? Religion is a tough line to walk when you are trying to be objective, and if you don’t like the message of a musical or play, don’t see it and keep your kids from seeing it (if you so need to). Unless the musical or play is actually overly inappropriate, it should have free reign to be performed. I will say that the article is very unprofessionally named, though, by calling certain parties “morons”. Using name-calling does not help in an argument, regardless of how ridiculous one side may be acting.

Julian Goldman said...

I agree with the overall point of this article, and I’m quite amused by the way it is presented. That being said, I think the way this article is written means it will inevitably be preaching to the choir. Just by calling parents who want to censor high school theater “idiots” in the title, anyone who does believe in censoring high school theater is going to immediately feel attacked and probably not read it. However, framing the same point about how there really is no such thing as an “acceptable” show for high school if you want to avoid all potentially problematic subject matter is a good one. Also, I think one thing that Oleksinski doesn’t discuss is that people underestimate how much teenagers know. Especially with how easy access to information is in our current society, whether these student’s parents want to believe it or not, their children are probably not nearly as sheltered as they think they are.

Evan Schild said...

I totally understand when a parent does not want their child to hear profanity and sexual innuendos. If the woman had just stated that this makes her uncomfortable and how she does not raise her children to hear things like that is understandable. What I did not appreciate was that she stated that because she was Christian this show was not ok. If your child goes to a public school religion should not play a part in anyway. If this woman has such strong feelings about raising her children in her religious ways, maybe sign them up for private religion high school. I am SOOO over adults censoring shows because they don’t want their children to be harmed. I think if they were actually good parents they could teach their children about what’s going on in the show and what is appropriate to say in public and teach them safety involved in the sexual content. Yes, pippin does have some inappropriate parts but it can easily be directed in a way that won’t be inappropriate. I think more adults need to calm down about these shows.

Alex Talbot said...

The New York Post is not the first place I like to go for my news or political opinions, as it resembles very strongly a tabloid paper. But here, I completely agree with the sentiment of the author. While I understand that parents want to shield their children from all bad things, there is certainly a point, and with shows that are not overly inappropriate, such as "Pippin," I don't think there is a problem. I have huge problems with the censorship of productions, just simply because a few parents are triggered. Shielding a child from the horrors of the world can only go on for so long, and there is an importance to the exposure of things that society deems as lewd. It's better to expose early and teach young people about these things rather than shield them, because this creates bigger problems going forward. I wholeheartedly agree, parents who censor productions are morons.

John Yoerger said...

Thank you for posting this article so I could talk about it. Though I will say, I really only briefly scanned it before I suggested it. It took a different turn than I initially expected it too. The NYP is pretty tabloid like to begin with so I don't really trust a lot of what they have to say. However, this article is interesting. I'm not a big fan of the approach to say "kids are doing it anyways" but in their English class because I don't really feel like it addresses the problem. They better explore it when they talk about the important issues it explores. This reminds me of another article from last semester about the prevalence with performing "Heathers: The Musical" as it explores things high school students need to talk about because they are subject to the same issues. I think this is the same case with Pippin. High School students are indeed searching to find themselves and how they fit in the world. Their, "corner of the sky," if you will. And I think it is important to allow them the opportunity to examine those issues through a safe exploration, like the lens of theatre.

Emily Lawrence said...

I am constantly amazed by parents who feel they need to censor the shows that their students are working on producing or performing in. While I understand that some shows a bit risky for students to be performing, it is important to stay true to what the author intended, and they included language and context for a reason. Also, if the students are in high school, they should be learning about material like this at this point anyways. I am not saying that they should be doing everything they are performing, but by keeping them blind to it and not teaching them about it in a safe, protected way, it is only going to hinder them more in the future. Also, most shows that people produce in the theatre are risky because they are trying to make a statement on something that is disagreeable in the first place. In my opinion, theatre has never been a place that should constantly be filled with sunshine and rainbows, but rather challenge and question the things that are occurring in the world, and censoring them will not do any good.

Megan Jones said...

The tone of this article is a little harsh but I mostly agree with the points it has to make. I think Sue Sterling needs to take a step back and realize that no one is forcing her to go see Pippin, and also her children definitely hear worse language in the halls of their school every day. I also think that it's hilarious that she thinks that Guys and Dolls is an appropriate replacement as there's literally a scene in a show where a character tricks another character into getting drunk without her knowledge, which is super creepy. I do understand that some parents will be uncomfortable with sexual content on stage in a high school setting, but there are ways to block things to keep it tasteful. I was lucky enough to have parents who were very accepting of most things we did in school so I think it's hard for me to understand the perspective of these parents. I just think that it's much more dangerous to try and shield your children from this type of art by shutting it down than to simply not attend the show.

Sarah Boyle said...

I don't agree with the author's tone, but I agree with their point. Not everything is acceptable for a high school theatre club, but if dramatic works or works of literature with any profanity can't be read or performed, there is significantly less to choose from. At my high school the stance was that if you heard the same or worse in the hallway, than it was fine. It's not like these shows are somehow corrupting the students. I also think it is entirely different if a student actor is uncomfortable saying something as opposed to their parent objecting to it. That can be a conversation. But this isn't a school requirement. The student should have the opportunity to decide what they believe and advocate for themselves. Theatre is supposed to reflect and respond to life, and in life there is profanity.