Students and parents are upset after a high school in Ohio canceled its production of a play featuring an LGBTQ+ character because the content of the play was deemed “inappropriate” for their students.
Students at Hillsboro High School say their school canceled the production of She Kills Monsters by Qui Nguyen because it featured a gay character. The 2011 play tells the story of a woman who learns her late sister was gay. The play earned a GLAAD nomination and has a "Young Adventurer’s Edition" with aged-down characters and less sexual content. Students had been rehearsing the Young Adventurer version of the play for weeks when parents and Jeff Lyle, pastor of the local Good News Gathering church, confronted the production’s directors over the play’s content. Not long after, the production was canceled.
“The district’s decision to cancel the fall play is based on the play being inappropriate for our K-12 audience,” Tim Davis, Hillsboro City Schools superintendent, said in a statement. “This production is recommended for ages 12 and older due to the language and mature content. As a district, we based our decision on the play’s use of inappropriate language, profanity, homophobic slurs, sexual innuendos and graphic violence.”
“I am beyond livid,” Chris Cronan, a cast member and out bisexual junior at Hillsboro, told WKRC in Cincinnati. “We worked very hard on this play – we had a lot of people in that school who are in the LBGTQ+ community.”
Ryan Cronan and high school student Christopher Cronan talk to WCPO.
“I do apologize to the students for the time already spent on the play,” Davis said in the statement, later adding, “I would also like to apologize to the entire community for any stress or division this may have caused.”
Davis denied the popular pastor Lyle in any way influenced the decision.
“Furthermore, I have not had any contact or communication with Mr. Lyle or any other religious entities concerning the characters in, or the production of, this play.” Davis said. “They had zero influence on this decision. This decision was made after the administration read through the script.”
Some parents claimed they saw Lyle and other parents confronting the directors. Lyle said in a statement emailed to local media he attended the meeting at the request of concerned parents. While he denied pressuring school officials, he did not hide his displeasure with the content of the play, saying “from a Biblical worldview this play is inappropriate for a number of reasons, e.g. sexual innuendo, implied sexual activity between unmarried persons, repeated use of foul language including taking the Lord’s name in vain.”
Cronan was upset with the decision, saying he never expected such a display of homophobia from his school.
“It felt like we had just been told, 'Screw off and your lives don’t matter,'" Cronan told WCPO. "I am openly bisexual in that school and I have faced a lot of homophobia there, but I never expected them to cancel a play for a fictional character."
Hillsboro graduate Jon Polstra, who had a daughter and son in the production, was not happy with the school’s decision.
“It was inappropriate for them to do and it was a wrong thing for the school to have allowed that influence to cause them to make the decision to cancel the show,” Polstra told WKRC in Cincinnati.
Polstra’s other son, Zebadiah Pickering Polstra, has started a GoFundMe page to raise funds for a new performance.
“While the play is no longer sponsored by the school, we are planning to perform the show in the summertime as a community theatre project with a different venue,” he wrote on the GoFundMe Page.