The disturbing trend of school play cancellations due to LGBTQ+ themes continues. Indiana's Carroll High School canceled a planned production of Adam Szymkowicz's Marian, or The True Tale of Robin Hood following two days of auditions, citing "safety concerns for the students involved." According to a petition being circulated demanding the production's reinstatement, the real issue was parent complaints over the work's gay and non-binary characters.
The comedic play is described by licensor Concord Theatricals as a "gender-bending, patriarchy-smashing ... new take" on the tale of Robin Hood. Szymkowicz's version of the story recasts Robin Hood as Maid Marian in disguise, leading a group of mostly non-male Merry Men. The work premiered via NYC's Flux Theatre Ensemble in 2017.
Szymkowicz tells Playbill the original play "would not be appropriate" for high school students, but Carroll had planned to present a "Teen Edition" Concord offers with a script adapted specially to be performed by teen actors for family audiences. "I’ll be fine whether the production is cancelled or not, but I worry about these students and students all over the country who are being told it’s not okay to be who they are," says Szymkowicz. "My play is about inclusion, and it’s a shame for a play to be shut down by bigotry in this way. For every cancellation we hear about, I wonder how often plays and events are never even considered for fear of angry phone calls or harassment."
The petition, created by someone only identified as "C M" but who appears to be an adult community member, claims the work had been approved by an administrator, and describes the planned production as a "huge step forward in representation for Carroll's queer community." Control of the petition has since been handed over to Carroll Gay-Straight Alliance President Kaitlyn Gulley, with the original writer remaining anonymous.
"We cannot stand for this," the petition continues. "As a community, we need to fight for our rights to be ourselves. We need to show students that there is nothing wrong with being who they are unapologetically even in a world filled with hate for what it does not understand. If others want to be violent towards students who are just trying to have fun portraying a story that is real to them, that is on those people. Not the students. We should not be punished for existing."
The petition, which initially aimed to get 250 signatures but has already gained more than 2,500, will reportedly be sent to administration and the school board for Northwest Allen County Schools as early as today.
The cancellation is the latest in a string of similar moves at schools nationwide planning productions that feature LGBTQ+ characters and/or themes, including a Florida high school's production of Paula Vogel's Indecent and an Ohio high school's The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The latter has since been reinstated following community support for the formerly canceled production. Though there have been a desire to mount Indecent in Florida, safety concerns have so far prevented the production.