Wisconsin drama students say they were stunned to learn their school district abruptly canceled their production of "To Kill A Mockingbird: because the dialogue included the N-word.
Tears were shed at Shorewood High School, where students had been set to open the play on Thursday.
"It's something we've been working on for a while, sadness is the first reaction," said drama student Clayton Holbrook.
The production is based on Harper Lee's classic novel, which is set in the 1930s and addresses social themes including class and racism.
To reflect the language of the times, and the book, the N-word was going to be uttered by the teenage actors.
"It's not something you want to hear. You don't want your little sister coming to your play and hearing you called that," said Laila Branch, president of the high school group Youth Rising Up.
Members had expressed concern about the language to school leaders, but many students said simply cancelling the play was too extreme.
"None of us said we wanted it to be canceled. None of us said that. We're all very capable teenagers, we can decide whether or not we want to go. We're not forced to go. It's just we don't wanna hear it in our school," Branch said.
A statement from the district said the cancellation was "due to concerns regarding potential protests."
But there may be a hidden benefit to the controversy, said one student.
"That might be the silver lining, that by bringing attention to this, it's forcing people to have difficult conversations about race in our current society, not just the 1930s," said drama student Will Aldana.