In February, Carroll High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, canceled the production of “Marian, or The True Tale of Robin Hood.”
The play, a gender-bending take on the classic tale, featured LGBTQ storylines that drew complaints from parents who were concerned for their children’s safety.
But the cast of two dozen teenagers, determined to put on the show, decided to take matters into their own hands.
After raising almost $84,000 and booking Foellinger Theatre, the teens spent 2 ½ weeks rehearsing for opening night. Security personnel in bulletproof vests dotted the audience, and theatergoers submitted to bag checks and metal detector wands at the entrance. But despite the warnings from adults, the teens were ready to perform.
Sydney Knipp, 16, was set to deliver the opening monologue as Alanna Dale, with her 14-year-old sister, Fia, costumed as Much the Miller’s son. The LGBTQ storylines had drawn controversy, but the teens knew they were part of something bigger. Schools across the country were canceling plays and musicals that featured LGBTQ roles, while Republican politicians were passing laws restricting the rights of LGBTQ children. The teens were determined to push back against this trend.
As the audience began to hush, Sydney sidled up to her little sister and asked how she was feeling. Fia confided that she was worried about potential hecklers. But Sydney reassured her, pointing out the many people with dyed hair in the audience. The sisters stood together, curled in an embrace, as the play began.
Despite the controversy and concerns for safety, the teens received overwhelming support from their community. Thousands bought tickets or donated to their fundraiser, local theater groups lent decorations, and even “Marian” playwright Adam Szymkowicz met with the cast on a Zoom call. The teens knew they were part of something bigger than themselves, and they were determined to make their voices heard.
In the end, the play was a success. The teens had defied the odds and put on a show that was both powerful and moving. They had shown that even in the face of adversity, they could make a difference. And as they took their final bows, they knew that they had made a statement that would resonate far beyond the stage.