Banned Spotlight: Plays and Musicals

Books aren’t the only focus of Banned Books Week. Plays, musicals, and other theatrical productions are frequent targets of censors, from the bright lights of Broadway to the smallest grade school.

The Dramatists Legal Defense Fund works to protect the rights of playwrights and performers, including their First Amendment rights to stage a work. One of the tools DLDF provides is The Defender, a database of dramatic works that have been challenged or censored in the United States. The database provides a way to track challenges to staged works, examples of ways in which challenges were overcome, and an idea of who is challenging plays and musicals and why.

At present, the list includes more than 70 works that have been targeted by censors. The attacks range from censorship of the source material, to calls for boycotts, to cancellations of productions, to termination of staff who supported the staging of the work.

A few highlights from the list:

  • A production of American Idiot, the stage version of Green Day’s hit album, was cancelled at Enfield High School in Connecticut after a handful of parents complained about mature content in the musical and threatened to keep their children from participating. Several members of the Banned Books Week Coalition signed a letter in support of the play.
  • Avenue Q, a hit musical comedy starring puppets that satirizes the anxieties of adulthood, saw the removal of ads in Colorado Springs because of visible puppet cleavage.
  • Members of a church in Fulton, Missouri, objected to the depiction of smoking, drinking, and kissing in Grease.
  • The Loveland High School in Ohio fired the director of the school’s production of Legally Blonde over “bootie-bounce dance moves” and the use of the word “skank”
  • The Sheen Center for Thought and Culture in Greenwich Village cancelled Playwrights for a Cause, a benefit supporting the National Coalition Against Censorship, because of Neil LaBute’s anti-censorship monologue Mohammed Gets a Boner.
  • A Pennsylvania high school cancelled a production of Spamalot over homosexual themes and subsequently fired the drama teacher for speaking about the cancellation.

You can view the entirety of DLDF’s database here.

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  1. Pingback: 110+ Challenged and Banned Books and Plays to Read for Banned Books Week! | Banned Books Week

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