Over the years, the Lee’s Summit West theater department has developed a reputation for their elaborate productions of classic musicals and plays. With that, it has been tasked with providing enough roles for the abundance of men’s lead roles while having a plethora of female actresses. As the casts of these shows become more diverse, a new conflict is presented. LGBTQ+ actors and actresses slowly are making their way into casted roles for high school productions, for example, “She Kills Monsters”, which ran during the fall play season.
“She Kills Monsters” included lead roles with differing sexualities and all-female leads. With the representation of non-straight people on the stage at West, individuals are more likely to feel accepted by a community, according to senior Sergio Guerra.
“Our department does a great job of being as inclusive as possible, but of course we can always be better about representing everyone on stage,” Guerra said.
“Our director, Mr. [Brad] Rackers, is always asking cast members who are people of color for feedback on content in the show. As one of the only Hispanic people in our department, Rackers will check in often to make sure that any race matter is handled in a way that we feel comfortable with.”
Guerra said that there is always room for improvement in the representation of different races on stage. In September, the department produced “Streetcar Named Desire”, which was set in southern Louisiana. Rackers and other white cast members noticed a lack of color in their cast, and decided to pull two women of color for diversity.
Senior Abrianna Windmon, a black woman, was one of the new cast members included for race representation.
“I was more than happy to jump in and join the show. It’s great that Rackers noticed the lack of color in his cast and attempted to bring in a couple people to represent everyone,” Windmon said.
Windmon saw the push for change in “Streetcar” and said she was proud to be involved in a show that addresses sensitive issues and had a focus on race representation.
Similar to Windmon, Guerra said he shares a prideful feeling towards the change that the theater department advocates for.
“Seeing people on stage that look like you is so important while pursuing your passions, it motivated me as an actor to be seen in lead roles even though I’m not white. I have female friends who have pushed for representation by earning the roles that they wanted, despite whether they were written for a man or a woman,” Guerra said.
In the spring, the West theater department will be showing “Spongebob Squarepants: the Musical”. With this musical coming to a highschool stage, there will be more opportunities for anyone of any gender to play any role, according to director Rackers.
“Spongebob was picked purposefully as our next spring musical production. It allows for our kids to play roles that may not typically be written for someone of any sexuality. We are very excited to be introducing a production that is fun, but also extremely inclusive,” Rackers said.