The Stories Behind Some of History’s Most Controversial Theatrical Productions

A play is causing a ruckus amongst our friends on the other side of the pond. The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Marat/Sade (The Persecution and Assassination of Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade) — originally written by Swedish playwright Peter Weiss — seems to be too “perverse” for British audiences. Ironically, the production was first staged at the RSC in 1964, where it was applauded for its progressive, avant-garde approach. Nearly 50 years later, up to 80 audience members a show are walking out on Marat/Sade — which is set in an insane asylum and revolves around inmate the Marquis de Sade’s play about the assassinated Jean Paul Marat. This play isn’t the first controversial theatrical work that upset audiences, however. Hit the jump for a look at other “shocking” stage productions.

Spring Awakening

Banned throughout history due to what many have considered to be pornographic subject matter, German playwright Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening was initially criticized for its portrayal of 19th century German teens who question the social and sexual mores of the time. The epic theater pioneer’s work has since gone on to win multiple Tony Awards for its musical Broadway adaptation — featuring songs by Duncan Sheik (yeah, the guy who wrote “Barely Breathing” in the ’90s) — but when Wedekind’s play first hit theaters in the early 20th century, many didn’t look kindly on its extreme subjects of rape, abuse, and abortion.