Green Light for Gatsby?


Emelia Merrick, Editor-in-Chief

You excitedly shhh your friends and adjust in your seat as the lights fade. The curtains are drawn and The Great Gatsby is about to begin! The colorful lights, booming band, and animated actors are captivating and it’s just midway through the play and then…..Kissing? Guns? Suicide?! The last time a play at Reynolds was rumored to have those elements, it immediately got shut down. Why wasn’t Gatsby shut down too? Is it even appropriate for high schoolers to watch shows like this? 

    Last year, Reynolds was going to show Heathers a play about popularity, humanity, and violence among teenagers. Unfortunately the show got canceled due to a complaint to the central office, making it out of Reynolds’s power to continue the production.

    Mr. Zayas, the theater teacher and director at Reynolds expresses his opinions about this year’s play in contrast to last year’s.

    “It does seem as though classic plays based on literature, or set in time periods long ago tend to get more of a pass than plays set in contemporary times,” Zayas said. “No one seems to complain when high schoolers dress up as 1920’s flappers and party around the stage holding champagne glasses. If you put them in short skirts and set them in modern times with red solo cups, it suddenly seems to become a problem for some people.” 

    Modern controversy has drowned the overarching messages from performances. The Great Gatbsy and Heathers both present social inequalities, draw attention to the violence of suicide, and create a new perception of love, the only difference is that Heathers is more modern than Gatsby. It’s undeniable that canceled culture, recent violence, and social issues have made people hesitant about what’s morally correct to show in a theater.

    Yet, somehow it’s okay for 8th graders to read To Kill a Mockingbird containing many racial slurs. Somehow it’s okay that a high school pep rally became a communal trauma diagnosis. If people expect teenagers to be okay in those settings, why not on a stage? 

    Some may argue that children would want to see the performances or it can be insensitive to some but, if the show has proper trigger warnings and age ratings, the school should be able to show more mature performances. Zayas argues that the contentiousness of the play can display a deeper meaning.

    “I don’t choose plays with the intention to shock or push the envelope. Anything controversial in a piece of art has to have a reason,” Zayas said. 

    Every day teens are exposed to harsh realities and yet some believe that we are not mature enough to watch a play that our friends are starring in.