The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

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The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

Theater shows highlight banned LGBTQ+ stories

Eli Schwartz
DRAMA JUMPS – Actors Paulina Stewart-Aday and Giacomo Ban-Goodrich rehearse a dance battle for the fall play.

With a new school year comes a new cycle of Jackson-Reed theater productions, but this time they follow a theme: banned shows. 

JR Theater is putting on the play “She Kills Monsters” in the fall, and the musical “Cabaret” in the spring. Both of these productions focus on LGBTQ+ representation that has caused bans from various American high schools in recent years. JR intends to show how silencing the LGBTQ+ community’s freedoms and thoughts is unjust. 

As cited in a Washington Post article, just this year, high schools in Florida, Indiana, and Ohio were banned from performing shows because of the representation of same-sex couples. “She Kills Monsters” was banned twice last year due to the presence of LGBTQ+ characters, according to The New York Times. 

Daniel Iwaniec, drama teacher and director of the JR productions, said that “there’s often this emphasis on sex within sexuality. And there’s just so much more within the [LGBTQ+] culture.” Cabaret is also less commonly performed in high schools due to the blacklisting of plays deemed “inappropriate”.

The fall play, “She Kills Monsters’”, first debuted in 2011 and follows a high school student, Agnes, who lost her little sister in a car accident. A year after the tragedy she finds her sister’s old Dungeons and Dragons campaign and begins to play it. The show shifts between the real world of Athens, Ohio and the fantasy world of New Landia. The journey helps Agnes learn more about her deceased sister, including the fact she had a girlfriend in the game, tying into the themes of LGBTQ+ acceptance. While dealing with these serious topics, the show remains light-hearted and fun, even packed with action and fight scenes. 

This spring, the musical “Cabaret”, a well-known Kander and Ebb production, will follow an American writer named Cliff who goes to Berlin during the uprising of the Nazi Party in the 1930s. He goes to the Kit Kat Club, where he forms a complicated bond with the club’s lead performer, Sally. 

One way LGBTQ+ themes are demonstrated in “Cabaret” is through the club’s master of ceremonies (or Emcee), who presents in a genderfluid fashion. The plot highlights how the rise of Nazi Germany affects the members of the club, while also creating an exciting vibe filled with glitz and glamor. 

James Davis

With the banning of these shows and others, Iwaniec wants to highlight how it is important to “show the ideas that [people who want to ban shows] are trying to push on to schools are not reflective of what kids and people in those communities want to express.” 

Senior Paulina Stewart-Aday, who plays Agnes in “She Kills Monsters”, reflects on the places where similar shows have been shut down. She points out the importance of  “what students in [these towns] are going through and what queer youth in those towns think when they see [the bans].” However, by putting on these productions, it shows how the community is not afraid to promote LGBTQ+ representation and can make DC and JR a safe space for many.

This makes the actors even more excited to put on these shows, especially senior Chhaya Deonauth, who is “excited to be playing a gay character in [the] production of ‘She Kills Monsters’ as someone who is bi[sexual].” Sophomore Caroline Reilly is, “interested in the fight choreography, and the action it brings”.

This year the play is going to remain in the Black Box Theater, as the money to repair the theater was not available to use until October 1. This leaves the spring play with some flexibility, but still tentatively in the Black Box Theater as well. 

The Black Box Theater comes with a unique vibe and anyone who wants to come and watch the fall play, “She Kills Monsters”, should come see it the first two weekends of November.

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About the Contributor
Eli Schwartz, Assistant Director of Art and Design
  • 2022-23: Senior Photo Editor
  • 2023-24: Assistant Director of Art and Design

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