High School Removing Swastikas From ‘The Producers’ Is Latest Example of Cowardly Censorship

Chris Peterson

OnStage Founder & Editor-in-Chief


This week, news hit that a high school in New York would remove the use of swastikas in their upcoming production of The Producers. While some may cheer and agree with Tappan Zee High School's decision, to me, it's another example of High School theatre censorship. 

Let me make this clear, I fully understand how weird it is for me to be defending the usage of swastikas but while Superintendent Bob Pritchard thinks he's doing the right thing, he's missing the point entirely and doing more harm than good. 

The usage of the swastikas in The Producers, as we all know, is satire. If Bob Pritchard had actually seen the show (which I doubt he has), he would have seen that the usage is in no way an endorsement of how the Nazi Party used the symbol but rather making fun of the party to the extreme.

The other issue is the inconsistency of Pritchard's decision. If he really wanted to censor the material to truly appease the small group of parents that complained, he would actually have to cut a large portion of dialogue including numerous "Heil Hitler!" salutes, Springtime for Hitler, and basically the entire role of Franz Liebkind. By cutting just the image of swastikas, it's half-way censorship simply to appease a few which is even more infuriating and cowardly. 

What I also find even more narrow minded on Pritchard's mindset is his comment that, “There is no context in a public high school where a swastika is appropriate."

I disagree with this entirely. What if a student in an art class was doing a painting showing the hatred of the Nazi Party and used a swastika in their art? What if a student was doing a history project about how the Nazi Party completely twisted the meaning of the original message of the symbol?

It would also mean that if the school wanted to perform Cabaret or The Sound of Music, they would also have to remove swastikas even though students would be playing actual German Soldiers and members of the Nazi Party. 

By ignoring context, everything becomes a black and white issue where there can be no middle ground, which is exactly the wrong message to send to high school students in 2016. 

It's unfortunate that this production will be performed with a "safer" design which almost removes the entire purpose of the piece to begin with. I also find it unfortunate that Bob Pritchard prefers that his students live in fear of a swastika rather than laughing at it.