Playing with Gender

Students Raised Over $80K to Stage a School Play That Was Canceled by Conservatives

Because those library book bans are going over so well with voters, conservatives have pivoted to the theater. School boards across the country are now canceling high school plays containing the slightest whiff of LGBTQ+ or anti-racist themes, according to an investigation by The Washington Post. Now one group of students have fought back, raising almost $85K to stage the canceled play themselves.

Early this year, Carroll High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana planned to stage Adam Szymkowicz’s Marian: The True Tale of Robin Hood for its spring production. According to the synopsis, the play is “a gender-bending, patriarchy-smashing, hilarious new take on the classic tale. Robin Hood is (and has always been) Maid Marian in disguise, and leads a motley group of Merry Men (few of whom are actually men) against the greedy Prince John.”

In addition to gender-bending, the play features a same-sex couple and a non-binary character. Although school administrators initially approved the production, they quickly caved to the complaints of some parents. The morning after the first auditions, the play was canceled. An online petition launched by the students said the school cited “safety concerns” and that the parents involved had used “threatening tones.”

The petition began in February with the modest goal of 250 signatures. It now has over 5,500 signatures. The students’ GoFundMe, launched in partnership with Fort Wayne Pride, reached almost $85,000—soaring past its $50K goal. After an overwhelming show of support from the community, the play was staged at a local theater on May 20th, selling over 1,500 tickets.

“Seeing that people have been so generous and so wanting to help us out, it’s heartwarming because I just didn’t expect it,” Meadowe Freeman, one of the students cast in the play, told local outlet WBOI News.

“A few months ago, we thought this was completely hopeless,” Peyton Stratton, the actor playing Marian, said. “And it feels very earned in a way to be like ‘wow, we did it and it’s happening.’”

It just goes to show that if you’re going to come for the girls, gays, and theys, attacking the theatre of all places isn’t the brightest idea. But while Carroll High School has successfully overcome the haters, other schools have not been as lucky.

Howard Sherman, a director of performing arts who has spent more than a decade helping schools fight censorship, told the Post, “Something that was being dealt with community by community has now, for some people, become a cause. You see politicians and officials enacting rules and laws which are incredibly onerous and designed to enforce a very narrow view of what students can see, read, learn, or act onstage.”

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