Two Canadian school boards have yanked funding for a new gay-themed musical set to premiere at an area high school.
Prom Queen: The Musical is based on the true story of Marc Hall, an Ontario teen who won a legal battle to bring his boyfriend to his Catholic school’s prom.
His saga made national headlines in 2002, and even inspired a TV movie. But when administrators at the London District Catholic School Board and the Thames Valley District School Board got wind of the Grand Theatre’s high school production, they nixed their annual $30,000 (about $24,000 U.S.) contribution.
“Together, our school communities—principals, teachers, trustees, staff, students, parents—work very hard to ensure all students are supported and cared for, which is not reflected in the script,” the boards’ representatives wrote in a statement.
This marks the first time in 20 years the school boards haven’t sponsored the Ontario theater’s youth program. Usually, each contributes $15,000 ($12,000 U.S.) to the project, which puts students in every aspect of production, from acting to stage management.
It’s left a major hole in the project’s $250,000 budget, but producers hope community members will be able to fill the gap.
Hall (above) is surprised his story is generating controversy so many years after he won his case: “It’s about a community coming together, to stick up for yourself,” he told the CBC, “to not allow discrimination, to love who you are.”
Portions of the script were taken directly from courtroom testimony and a 2010 talk Hall gave, according to Prom Queen producer Mary Young Leckie.
“Mark was a bit of a reluctant hero, he just wanted to go to prom. He wasn’t a political rebel,” she said. “This is a story about gay rights. When you come up against this really conservative reaction and defensive reaction, it surprises me. But it also tells me that this play is incredibly relevant. This is a story that people need to hear.”
Grand Theatre artistic director Dennis Garnhum chose the play because it featured characters the student’s own age that they could relate to.
“[It’s about] what happens when young people follow their voice and make a difference in the world,” he said. “This happened 20 years ago. It’s not about the good guy or the bad guy anymore. I want to give more kids a chance to see themselves.”
Prom Queen: The Musical originally ran at the Segal Centre in Montreal last year and was selected for the New York Musical Festival. After its run at the Grand Theatre it’s expected to be produced professionally.
The 2004 film version of Prom Queen, which starred Aaron Ashmore, sparked controversy, as well: About a week before it premiered on CTV, the offices of Toronto-based Tapestry Pictures were trashed by vandals.