I Can't Stand Censorship in Community Theatre

  • Timothy Fitzgerald

For over forty years, I have been performing and directing in community theatre, and one thing has been a real concern to me…censorship of a published work.

I guess for me; it is about presenting the piece as it was written for the stage. By not doing this, you are not giving an audience the real product as it was meant to be. I was involved in a production of The Full Monty, and we did THE FULL MONTY at the end of the show. Audiences loved it! You do need to have the right lighting effects in order to pull this off, of course. But we did, and it went off without a hitch.

When allowed to direct it for another theatre company possibly, I asked if they would be going all the way. Their answer was, “No.” That cemented my answer for that opportunity.

I understand that community theatres must keep their audiences in mind when it comes to subject content. But if you are not willing to present the production in its complete format as written, maybe you need to find a different show that would be more palatable to the taste of your patrons. Whether it is language or subject matter or nudity, take a step back. Many folks go to community theatre to experience theatre at affordable prices but most of them want to see the production that they would have seen in the professional theatre production.

And yes, people may walk out because of offensive language or subject matter. I experienced this when I was in a production of Falsettos. People got up and left in the first act in the middle of the act because of the gay aspect and language. They didn’t know what they were coming to see. This could be a case of needing to educate our audiences more or post a big disclaimer about strong language and subject matter in publicity.

If you think you are going to have an issue with a show, find a different show to present for your base. Don’t do Cabaret if you feel the audiences can’t handle the truth about Jews and Nazi Germany. Don’t dumb it down for the stage to make it easier to swallow. I had done a production of Spamalot where they changed the song “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” because it had the lyrics ‘If you don't have any Jews’ because they thought Jewish people would be offended. And for those of you who know Spamalot, the show aims at everyone but in a humorous way.

We hear curse words every day, right? A few words during a production will not hurt the audiences. Believe me, if they go to the movies or watch TV, they are probably hearing worse. This won’t stop me from doing theatre, but it is something that has bothered me for years, and now I put it out to all of you. Thoughts pro or against?