Tough Musical with Edgy Themes

Tough Musical with Edgy Themes

Ellie Gavin, Staff Writer

When it comes to producing great theater, Staples Players has been hitting all the right notes for the past five decades. But sometimes a good production is an edgy production. How do the Players handle it when a show’s topics get tough?

Throughout their history, the Players have done their fair share of “PG-13” productions, such as “Rent,” “West Side Story,” and “The Laramie Project.”

These plays are theater classics, but they’re not always easy to handle. “Rent” involves heavy drug use and the AIDS crisis. “West Side Story” has intense violence, murder, and rape. “The Laramie Project” chronicles a deadly hate crime committed against a young homosexual boy.

This fall Players is doing a production of “Oklahoma!”, a mostly upbeat tale of love and jealousy,  that also includes some serious subject matter such as violence, adultery, and allusions to sexual assault.

“Any time we do a show like that, I go straight to Mr. Dodig,” said Staples Players program director David Roth. “We take it very seriously.”

A key moment in the show is a nasty altercation between Laurey and Jud that ends in a way that suggest there might be a rape.

While it is not stated outright and it does not occur on stage, it can be assumed by the innuendo and nature of the scene. Roth said, “To a modern audience it might be assumed that that’s how the scene ends.”

According to Roth, there is a fine line between edgy and inappropriate. For example, “Rent,” which involves heavy drug use, is one of the more controversial shows Players has done.

According to Roth, most important is that the topics are portrayed in a serious manner that discusses the consequences of dangerous behavior. “We wouldn’t want to potentially glamorize or make light of drug use,” he says. “It depends on what the show is about at its heart.”

In addition to show choice, another big challenge for the Players is balancing the level of appropriateness of a show while keeping the integrity of the original show intact.

“It is theater. People aren’t going to see a dumbed-down version,” says Clay Singer ‘13, who will play Curly in the show. “[However] if something gets to be too crude, we decide to change it.”

One such modification is in the Players production of “Rent,” where the musical number “Contact” was omitted due to some very graphic sexual encounters. This scene is also omitted from the movie.

For the most part, however, Players tries to keep the shows as close as possible to their true form. “Modifying a scene to make it more ‘appropriate’ wouldn’t do the show justice,” said Emily Ressler ’14, who is playing Laurey in this year’s production of Oklahoma.

Another consideration when producing a high school production is the audience, which is filled with young students and their family members.

“Ultimately, we have to sell tickets; we wouldn’t do a show that would close out all kids,” said Roth.