Green Room

CT high school play that includes gay kiss creates furor

posted at 12:05 pm on October 22, 2011 by

Imagine a world where heterosexuals are the minority and homosexuals are the majority. Actually, there is no need to imagine. Someone else has already conjured up this vision and committed it to paper and sheet music, in the musical Zanna, Don’t.

The 2002 play, the book for which was written by Tim Acito, with additional lyrics and material by Alexander Dinelaris, is set in a fictional high school. It was, however, a recent performance at a real school, Hartford Public High, that generated headlines.

The Hartford Courant reports:

Members of Leadership Greater Hartford’s Quest, a program for professionals that develops leadership skills, put forth ‘Zanna’ as an anti-bullying community service project that helps lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.

In a partnership with the nonprofit True Colors, one Quest team raised $10,000 to show the musical three times at Hartford High this month. The Knox Foundation and the Samuel Roskin Trust at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving gave sponsorship money. Students from area high schools and Trinity College are the actors.

In one scene in the play two males of the species exchange a brief kiss. The scene was obviously meant to raise the consciousness of audience members. But when the play had its debut at Hartford High last week, the scene instead raised the blood pressure of some in attendance.

The Courant notes that

a piercing clamor rang through the auditorium. There were screams and loud voices and a bit of feigned or real disgust. Dozens of students, mostly male and a few in their Owls football jerseys, hurried out of their rows and walked out. A few jumped over seats to leave.

Before the day was out, one parent had stormed into the main office with a Bible, pointing out portions that condemn homosexuality as a sin. Others took their teenage children out of school early.

According to the Courant David Chambers, principal of the school’s nursing academy, had informed his students ahead of time there might be same-sex affection in the play. Some had asked to be excused, and Chambers had considered—but then rejected—the idea of sending home an opt-out letter.

Chambers is said to have hoped the play would help his students develop a sense of empathy toward gays and lesbians, or at least exposure to “that which makes them uncomfortable.”

“Our kids are not there yet,” he is quoted as saying.

But some evidently are. Oneida Fernandez, a 17-year-old law and government student, is quoted as saying, “To me, people are people. We’re human beings.… I don’t discriminate.”

Another, Dineily Vargas, told a reporter:

I think it opened a lot of people’s eyes.… This school never really had anything like this happen. I’m still happy. It was wonderful.

The only part I hated, was when some people left.

This story raises all manner of questions. Chief among them is where a school’s responsibilities to its students and to the community at large begin and end. There are also see clear-cut First Amendment issues here. Anyone with answers is welcome to weigh in below.

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I’m not sure I understand how a play ostensibly about anti-bullying and teaching inclusiveness somehow leads one of the attending students to love the play, think it is wonderful in fact, yet HATE that some people were offended and left.

catmman on October 22, 2011 at 12:17 PM

One thing to note; it’s amazing how many people are tolerant publicly about gays, but in private, they really change their tune and are quite hostile. I find this especially with my guy friends, and even amongst women.

IR-MN on October 22, 2011 at 12:39 PM

The opt-out letter would have pre-emptive all of this.

Claimsratt on October 22, 2011 at 1:24 PM

The opt-out letter would have pre-emptive all of this.

Claimsratt on October 22, 2011 at 1:24 PM

But that would have reduced the ability of the play to indoctrinate children who’s families are not already pro-gay.

Count to 10 on October 22, 2011 at 1:31 PM

Actually, the opt-out letter would have caused a furor in the pro-gay community, because of the implication that a gay kiss is something that people might reasonably be opposed to (because being gay is like so totally progressive or something).

Best idea: let the school TEACH — and let people get their cultural and/or religious molding elsewhere. If you’ve got a play that includes the harm of bullying someone whose beliefs are different, without taking sides in the conflict, that would be fine. But there is ZERO reason for a public school — paid for by taxes of people with all sorts of religious views — to take sides in a religious controversy.

RegularJoe on October 22, 2011 at 1:34 PM

If the kids are 18 no problem but 17 and younger, the parents have a right to know what is happening and to decide for them.

Claimsratt on October 22, 2011 at 1:49 PM

It’s good to know that Hartford schools have achieved academic excellence, so that they have so much extra time for controversial extracurricular stuff like this.

Laura Curtis on October 22, 2011 at 3:51 PM

What does “pro-gay” mean? And how does kissing indoctrinate students? Are they going to go bi or full homo because they saw some boys kissing? And how is homosexuality a religious controversy? Neural anatomy has nothing to do with religion.

andy85719 on October 22, 2011 at 7:40 PM

What a bunch of drama queens! I bet every single kid at the high school has seen dozens if not hundreds of gay kisses on television or in movies without reacting at all. I blame the Left for most of this incident, because it is the Left that wants to turn every single human interaction into a piece of political theater. (You can’t blame the Left for the guy showing up with the Bible and overly simplistic exegesis.)

thuja on October 22, 2011 at 7:43 PM

And how is homosexuality a religious controversy?

It’s the response on those whose religious beliefs tell them it’s a sin that is the basis of the religious controversy.

Howard Portnoy on October 22, 2011 at 9:14 PM

Didn’t people know what the play was about? If so you would think they wouldn’t be so shocked.

tomas on October 23, 2011 at 8:28 AM

They are going to have a gay version of 12 angry men next by the way

tomas on October 23, 2011 at 8:32 AM

Interestingly enough, this principal chose not to alert parents to the content of the play lest they exercise their parental rights to keep their students from seeing the play. After all, given a choice between respecting the sensitivities and beliefs of members of his diverse school community, he chose to impose his beliefs and values upon all the students by forcing them to attend.

RhymesWithRight on October 23, 2011 at 10:39 AM

“Our kids are not there yet,” he is quoted as saying.

(emphasis mine)

And that’s pretty much all you have to know. “They don’t think the way we want them to but we’ll make them eventually. Hell, it’s worked so far.”

princetrumpet on October 23, 2011 at 9:24 PM

Anti-bullying “play” bullies kids into watching homosexual liplock.

Can’t make this stuff up.

TexasDan on October 24, 2011 at 10:06 AM