Students behind revived LGBTQ+ play invite governor, state lawmakers
Carroll High School students react to a video of support from the Broadway cast of Sweeney Todd on May 9, 2023. (Courtesy marianlives.org)
Fort Wayne high schoolers — readying their own production of a cancelled play with LGBTQ+ themes — on Wednesday invited Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and the state’s 150 lawmakers to the one and only performance.
“Being exposed to stories that acknowledge the LGBTQ experience isn’t something we need to ‘protect’ people from,” four students wrote in a letter addressed to a Holcomb spokeswoman. “It’s something that can help us all better understand each other, which is sorely needed right now.”
The teen edition of “Marian, or the true tale of Robin Hood” was to be the Carroll High School drama department’s spring play. But in February, after parents expressed concerns over some LGBTQ+ elements — like a same-sex couple and a non-binary character — administrators called the production off, WBOI reported.
Students protested the decision, which administrators said was meant to protect those involved from harassment and heckling.
“Their decision to side with a homophobic minority sent a very public message, intended or not, that at Carroll, queer students are second-class citizens,” the students wrote. “Unfortunately, that message wasn’t contained to our school district.”
We want to show you and our state legislators that there is nothing to be afraid of.
– Stella Brewer-Vartanian, Kaitlyn Gulley, Meadowe Freeman and Tristan Wasserman
While the fallout at Carroll continued, the students noted, state lawmakers successfully advanced several controversial measures aimed at LGBTQ+ children and content. That included laws banning gender-affirming care to minors regardless of parental consent, restricting student pronoun and name changes and intensifying scrutiny on school library materials.
Holcomb signed them into law without vetoes — sparking legal challenges.
“We want to show you [Holcomb] and our state legislators that there is nothing to be afraid of, and give them an opportunity to meet the people directly impacted by their legislative actions,” the students wrote.
After Carroll pulled the play, students organized an independent production, raising $80,000 to do so. The four letter-writers — Stella Brewer-Vartanian, Kaitlyn Gulley, Meadowe Freeman and Tristan Wasserman — led the efforts.
Fort Wayne Pride has handled the donations. Profits beyond what’s needed for the show will be used to create a fund, according to the production’s website, “that will support drama kids like us around the country who’ve had their plays canceled, too.”
The play runs just once: Saturday ay 7 p.m., at Fort Wayne’s Foellinger Outdoor Theatre.
“We want Indiana to be a welcoming place that embodies the kindness and warmth that characterizes the Midwest,” the students concluded. “We want it to be an understanding place where diversity and inclusion are embraced and our best and brightest are valued, not cast out based on gender or sexuality. We are committed to making Indiana better for each and every Hoosier, regardless of who they love or how they identify.”
A spokeswoman for Holcomb didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
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