How a High School Production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ Erupted Into a Culture War – The Daily Beast

An upcoming high school production of Jesus Christ Superstar has ripped a North Carolina town apart, with critics blasting it for peddling a so-called LGBTQ+ agenda—and students countering that their outrage is just the tip of an anti-trans, homophobic iceberg.

According to students at Central Academy of Technology and Arts, a magnet school in Monroe, the gender-neutral manufacturing of Christ Celebrity was announced over the particular summer. An Instagram page for the school’s theater program advertised the rock opera with the official logo associated with Jesus Christ Superstar , the profile of two angels within the shape of a horseshoe, taken from its 1970 album release.

“2023 CATA Musical Reveal, ” read the since-deleted post that was later reshared on an Union County community gossip page . “We have officially received the rights to produce a good all-gender cast [ Jesus Christ Superstar ] where anyone can play any role. ”

Students told The Regular Beast that will the high school put up another post in September that introduced auditions and used the Jesus Christ Celeb logo superimposed over CATA’s initials, which looked similar to the particular Progress Pride flag. The letters were in a rainbow colorblock design and transitioned into white, baby pink and blue, brown, plus black.

“Congratulations to everyone who submitted an audition, ” the post, also since deleted, read. “We are incredibly proud of you and very much enjoyed watching your songs and dance videos. Thank you all for that time you put into these auditions. ”

On Sept. 25, after the initial round of auditions, the account posted a callback list for shortlisted students. The particular gender or sex of the role did not determine which usually student would get the part.

Ordinarily, the production would likely have hit the stage without a hiccup. CATA has a nationally renowned arts program and a “thriving theatre and artistry community, ” Union Region Public Schools assistant superintendent of communications and community relations Tahira Stalberte informed The Daily Beast.

During the 2021-22 school year, college students performed Heathers: The Musical , the play about teenage self-discovery that focuses on the need to fit in with the popular crowd, rebellion, bullying, and even suicide. CATA won regional awards for its production plus, according to learners, there were never any complaints despite the musical’s dark content.

Christ Superstar, an safari that demands a wide range of vocal abilities, is a modern rendition from the story of Jesus’ last week before his crucifixion that incorporates rock songs to serve as allegories with regard to the current social climate. Multiple productions around the particular world have got utilized nonbinary casting.

But what students didn’t count on was the involvement of Moms for Liberty, an ultra-conservative national organization that has pushed book bans, attacked teachers through diverse backgrounds, and fought face mask and vaccine mandates under the guise of “parental rights. ”

Members from the Union County chapter of Mothers for Freedom were quick to voice their horror at the gender-diverse casting and the fact the school’s logo had been colored rainbow and was being used to advertise the show.

“CATA mom here, ” a parent posted in the chapter’s private Facebook group, based on screenshots provided to The particular Daily Beast by another person in the group. “I’ve been quiet long enough. I’m struggling with this new logo and this particular year’s play featuring a ‘gender inclusive’ cast of Jesus Christ Celebrity. WHY? I’ve emailed… my concerns. If you feel led, please do so too. There is power in numbers! ”

“So a girl may play Christ and a boy can have fun with Mary?! Heck. To. The. No!!! ” another member of the particular Moms regarding Liberty Fb group commented. “This will be beyond disappointing. Union State parents need to speak out about this BS, even if their children aren’t directly impacted. ”

In screenshots reviewed by The Daily Animal, Union County Public Colleges board associate Gary Sides, also a member of the group, responded that will the situation would be handled.

“Update, it IS BEING handled, ” he later wrote.

Central School of Technologies and Artistry

Based on multiple students who spoke in order to The Daily Beast, that’s when the issue spiraled into an ugly campaign against LGBTQ+ community members—spearheaded by district administrators.

“When I originally saw that we had been doing gender-neutral casting [for Jesus Christ Superstar ], I was excited regarding the opportunity, ” CATA Medical Academy 12th grade student Evie Fraker told The particular Daily Beast. “[Now,] it feels like CATA plus Union Region as a whole are taking a huge step backward in terms of inclusivity and making every college student and staff member feel safe. ”

On September. 27, CATA principal Kevin Beals sent a letter to staff members reminding them that the particular use of pronouns in emails and any kind of classroom “displays” of support for marginalized communities were banned.

“[W]e have been asked to remind all personnel members that our classrooms and professional social media accounts must remain free from any content material that could be discriminatory or viewed as promoting some individual, team or agenda, ” Beals wrote in a letter to staff. “We have been asked in order to demonstrate neutrality in all posts, displays, and lessons. ”

He continued: “We have been told that the inclusion and use of pronouns in employees email signatures and classrooms is not permissible, plus that they should be removed from [district]-owned accounts. ”

“Furthermore, ” Beals added, “any shows or ‘concepts that can reasonably give rise to the appearance associated with sponsorship, approval, or endorsement’ must be eliminated from classrooms. This is usually all part of what the district views as professional standards, along with neutrality being the key. ”

Stalberte told The Daily Animal the theater group’s Instagram post with the rainbow logo wasn’t approved and included “inappropriate” additions to the school’s recognized logo.

In a statement, she added that will employees happen to be expected in order to abide by area email standards for more than a decade, which include font color, style, plus size; a good educator’s title; location; and phone, fax, and cell numbers. The particular standards cannot be altered “in any way, ” plus nothing associated with religion, politics, or “personal philosophies” ought to be included.

Stalberte insisted the district college board failed to discriminate against students in accordance with Title IX .

Their ‘neutral’ stance is just a way of pushing their ideals onto the school system.

CATA junior Brody Martin

Still, college students felt the particular timing associated with the school board’s decision to double down on those policies was suspicious, coming right after Sides’ involvement.

“Students [did] not really notice this particular policy becoming enforced until the controversy stemming from our musical—after the drama was incited upon the Facebook group, ” CATA jr Brody Matn told The Daily Beast in an email. “Basically, their ‘neutral’ stance is definitely just a way of pushing their own ideals on to the college system, and it could potentially be damaging to those currently in the closet or those who don’t have familial assistance. ”

“One amazing thing about this show is the fact that it’s completely gender non-discriminatory. Yet teachers plus admin are receiving backlash for this, ” 11th grade student Gabby Laatz said in an email to The Regular Beast. “It’s difficult to watch as a queer student. In regards to the statement of neutrality, I sense like they are telling me the identity is not professional. ”

Another pupil, ninth-grader Blake Hudson, informed The Every day Beast that teachers experienced previously already been advocates when it came in order to her own process of self-discovery, and these people had helped champion her emotional well-being. But with the particular interference of district officials, she has been afraid other students may not be able to have the same life-changing teacher-student relationships.

“For me, it is like learners need to have help finding their particular voice and need people to look upward to, ” Hudson stated. “I went to the college counselor, I went in order to my teacher, and they assisted me find my tone of voice. ”

Sides did not return The particular Daily Beast’s request for comment, nor did the Partnership County section of Moms for Liberty. Stalberte, the district spokesperson, said, “If students possess concerns or even anything, we certainly encourage them to talk with their principal or counselors, but they are usually truly supported. ”

As the row intensified, community members started a good online petition demanding the particular district become held accountable for discriminating towards students based on their sex. It accused the board of demanding “neutrality” only when it suited their plan, not in order to came in order to their own users espousing religious events like campus Bible studies.

“What needs to be an incredible opportunity for ALL students to participate in musical triumph and development has, instead, turned into a culture war now [a]ffecting almost all teachers inside the region, ” the petition go through.

“A small band associated with ‘concerned parents’ (to end up being noted, none of whom have got children involved in the musical nor in this particular disciplines program) through extremist national organization Mothers for Freedom reached out to board people to decry the choice in order to have the gender-neutral throwing of this play. ”

The petitioners demanded that table members not really overstep their own duties along with specific schools, that policies concerning education about gender and identity be overturned, that this Satisfaction flag not be considered an offensive or political symbol, and that the school board attend a Title IX schooling course.

“We know that there should be no limits on what our own youth can accomplish, especially arbitrary ones. We know that everybody in our local community deserves to feel safe and backed so that all of us all might achieve the greatest potential, ” the particular petition ended.

For many residents, the episode just scratched the surface of deeper issues, as Marriage County can be no stranger to the particular censorship associated with LGBTQ+ communities. During Pride events within June, a drag queen story hour was canceled following the organizer and his family received threats, according to CBS 17 Raleigh . WSOC-TV 9 reported that a public library furthermore backed out of Pride events. In August, a local restaurant held a drag show that will drew protesters vowing in order to “keep these types of demons away from our children, ” Fox 8 Greensboro reported.

“I hope that the classes board realizes that neutrality isn’t an option to create safe environments as well as the real answer should be inclusivity! ” Laatz said in an email. “I feel just about all they are doing is certainly punishing teachers for wanting to make their college students feel safe and welcome in order to push THEIR agenda. ”

Yet despite the seemingly ongoing setbacks, Association County Public Schools mentioned CATA’s creation of Jesus Christ Celeb will not be terminated.

The cast list of the show, which will premier in March 2023, was posted Saturday. Jesus will be played by a male and female student.