- With the specter of school shootings in the background, directors of school productions — many of which call for gun use — are evaluating the need for using realistic weapons as props and are turning to less realistic options instead, the New York Times reports.
- Guns designed to fire blanks offer their own set of problems, including complex safety regulations and the potential for harm or death.
- Sensitivity to gun use also may vary widely among communities, a factor that school leaders and directors need to take into consideration when staging productions; however, the overall goal should be to make students and the audience feel safe.
School leaders often have mixed feelings about dramatic productions at school because there is so often an additional measure of drama behind the drama. For instance, in February, social justice activists at a New York high school caused a production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” to be canceled when a white student won the role of Esmerelda. In another instance, a student was killed while handling a blank-firing pistol.
Theater productions offer a great deal to a school community in terms of educational and cultural exploration as well as the opportunity for students to explore some sensitive topics that may not find a forum in other classrooms. The University of Texas at Austin expresses the value of high school theater this way: “Theater in the high school is both an academic discipline and a performing art. A study of theater motivates students to study and develop ideas, insights and values. The primary component of theater — dialogue — provides a uniquely effective method for studying the communicative functions of human language.”
School leaders need to carefully consider the themes, plays and props they consider appropriate for their situation, giving thought to values of the community and the educational values of the production. The most popular school plays for high school and middle schools offer a chance for students to explore the dramatic arts without a great deal of controversy. However, some school leaders and directors may want to explore broader options. Gaining parental permission for participation in these productions may alleviate some of the controversy in the long run. And establishing safe prop policies may also head off weapon-related issues in the long run.