An equal opportunities policy in casting means Taranaki Diocesan's production of the musical Hairspray is staying true to the key themes of the story.

Darin Ramsay, the Taranaki Diocesan teacher who is directing this year's play, says given much of the story is focused around the idea that race would prevent someone being in a show, it would have been wrong to limit the roles people could audition for because of their race.

"We took the approach that any student could audition for any role and they would be cast based on their acting, singing and dancing abilities, not on colour."

This approach was already decided on before they signed up for the rights for the show, and Darin says their decision was matched by the licensing agency for Hairspray.

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"When we actually got the rights, they clearly state groups should cast the show as best they can, as long as the words and story are unaltered."

Some of those words did get questioned by students at the start, says Darin.

"I think it shows how aware of social justice issues the students are that they don't just unquestioningly recite lines. Early on in rehearsal, when they came across some lines which talked about 'Negro Day', they stopped and asked if that word was acceptable, so we had some good conversations around context as well as how attitudes have changed over time."

Two weeks out from the opening night of the show, students are putting in plenty of hours fine tuning their roles.

Covid-19 meant the play is being performed later in the year than originally planned, meaning students are balancing hours of rehearsal with winter sport commitments and study needs. It's pressured, but they are all doing well, says Darin.

"We had started work on this show back in February, then had the long Covid-19 related pause on it. It was the students themselves who said they wanted to go ahead with the show post Covid, and they have really put in the effort to get it ready."

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