Last Thursday, after weeks of rehearsal of “She Kills Monsters,” the Hillsboro High School cast was told by school administrators that the play in this southern Ohio city had been canceled due to the fact that one of the characters in the play might be gay.
“She Kills Monsters” was written by Qui Nguyen (“Raya and the Last Dragon”) and premiered in New York in 2011. After it opened and closed at the Flea Theater, the story of a group of teens finding themselves through Dungeons & Dragons took on a life of its own, becoming an immensely popular play for high school stages and college campuses. One of the characters in the show is implied—though not outright stated— to be gay.
Less than one month before Hillsboro’s production was set to premiere, the superintendent issued a statement saying “the fall play has been canceled this year because the play was not appropriate for our K-12 audience.”
In news reports covering the cancelation, families said they believe the decision was influenced by some local parents and a pastor who has been in support of canceling the play.
Though the Hillsboro High School cancelation received some press coverage, the cancelation of that same play took place much more quietly in Hudson, Ohio.
On September 20, students at the northeast Ohio high school showed up for their first rehearsal of their fall production, only to find the principal in attendance. He let them know that they would no longer be performing “She Kills Monsters.”
When reached for comment, Jennifer Reece, manager of communications and alumni outreach, told The Buckeye Flame that “feedback” was received from “some students, a parent and staff members.”
“In particular, concerns from the GSA (Gender Sexuality Alliance) club were that some students did not like the depiction of characters in She Kills Monsters. This led to conversations with our counselors, administration and the drama director. It was decided that if the exact group we intended to feature and support in the production did not like how they were portrayed, it would be best to pivot to a different production.”
That “feedback” runs contrary to the near-universal and well-publicized praise for the LGBTQ+ themes in “She Kills Monsters,” with the play being hailed as the rare show where “queer kids are cool” and in which “LGBTQ roles have an empowering and uplifting impact on student artists in the LGBTQ community.”
Over the past few months, Hudson has been the focus of multiple heated debates about critical race theory (CRT), even though CRT is not something taught in Hudson schools. At the Hudson Board of Education meeting on September 27, Hudson resident Cara Wright referenced these recent voices of CRT dissent while expressing her concern over the cancelation of “She Kills Monsters.”
It is up to us to do our due diligence and not be intimidated or swayed by those who might disagree or have the loudest voices. It is far time that we stop the trajectory of fear that has been created within this district and our community that is disabling our community and our Board from creating a well-rounded experience for our children.
Thus I have a problem with the play “She Kills Monsters” being canceled at the last minute during the first practice after it had already been approved, auditions had occurred, roles were cast, and rehearsals were scheduled…By not running that play that exposes and thoughtfully delivers different experiences and perspectives, our children are being implicitly told that these different experiences don’t matter…Our children deserve better than this.
In Hillsboro, a fundraising campaign to produce “She Kills Monsters” during the summer—and thus not being sponsored by the school—has tripled their original goal of $5,000.
In Hudson, the fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was replaced with—seemingly without irony—”The Crucible.”
Originally published by The Buckeye Flame. Republished here with permission.