How Central Academy of Technology and Arts’ ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ Musical Erupted Into an Ugly Culture War

An upcoming high school production of Jesus Christ Superstar torn another North Carolina town, with critics saying it’s peddling the so-called LGBTQ+ agenda — and students protesting that their outrage is just the tip of the anti-transgender iceberg , homophobic discrimination.

According to students at the Central Academy of Technology and Arts, a specialized school in Monroe, a sexist production facility Jesus Christ Superstar was announced in the summer. An Instagram page for school theater program advertised the rock musical with the official logo of Jesus Christ Superstarprofile of two angels in the shape of a horseshoe, taken from Album 1970 release.

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

Students told The Daily Beast that the high school posted another post in September announcing the auditions and using Jesus Christ Superstar logo overlaps CATA’s initials, looks like Pride of Progress flag. The letters have a rainbow block design and are converted to white, light pink and blue, brown and black.

“Congratulations to everyone who submitted an audition,” the post, also since deleted, read. “We are incredibly proud of you and would love to see your songs and dance videos. Thank you all for taking the time to these auditions. “

On September 25, after the first round of auditions, the account posted a callback list for shortlisted students. The gender or gender of the role does not determine which student will receive the role.

Oftentimes, the production process could have been achieved without a hitch. CATA has a nationally renowned arts program and a “prosperous theater and arts community,” assistant director of communications and community relations Tahira Stalberte of Union County Public Schools told The Daily Beast.

During the 2021-22 school year, students take Heathers: The Musical, a play about adolescent self-discovery that focuses on the need to fit in with the celebrity crowd, rebellion, bullying, and even suicide. CATA won regional awards for its production and, according to students, never had any complaints despite the musical’s dark content.

Jesus Christ Superstar, an opera that requires a lot of vocal ability; is a modern rendition of the story of Jesus last week before his crucifixion; incorporates rock songs to serve as an allegory for the current social situation. now. Many products around the world already use non-binary casting.

But what the students don’t believe is the involvement of Moms for Liberty, a conservative extremist national organization that promotes book bans, attacks teachers of diverse backgrounds, and opposes mandates. cover-ups and vaccinations under the guise of “parents’ rights”.

Members from Chapter of Union County of Moms for Liberty were quick to voice their horror at the gender-diverse cast and the fact that the school’s logo is rainbow-colored and is being used to advertise the show.

“Here’s CATA mom,” one parent posted in the chapter’s personal Facebook group, according to screenshots provided by another member of the group to The Daily Beast. “I have been silent long enough. I’m having a hard time with this new logo and this year’s play features a ‘gender inclusive’ cast of Superstar Jesus. WHY? I have emailed…my concerns. If you feel led, do so. There is power in numbers! “

“So a girl can play Jesus and a boy can play Mary?! Ha ha. Arrive. The. No!!!” commented another member of the Moms for Liberty Facebook group. direct “.

In the screenshot reviewed by The Daily Beast, Union County Public Schools Board member Gary Sides, also a member of the team, responded that the situation would be handled.

“Update, it’s being worked on,” he later wrote.

Central Academy of Technology and Arts

That’s when the issue turned into an ugly campaign against LGBTQ+ community members – led by district administrators, according to multiple students who spoke with The Daily Beast.

“When I first saw that we were casting sexist [for Jesus Christ Superstar]“I am very excited about this opportunity,” Evie Fraker, a 12th grader at the CATA Medical Academy, told The Daily Beast. “[Now,] it feels like CATA and Union County as a whole are taking a huge step backwards in terms of inclusiveness and making every student and staff feel safe. “

On September 27, CATA’s principal, Kevin Beals, sent a letter to employees reminding them that pronoun use in emails and any classroom “performance” of support for disadvantaged communities is prohibited.

“[W]I have been asked to remind all staff that our classroom and professional social media accounts must be free of any content that may discriminate or be seen as promoting certain individual, group or agenda,” Beals wrote in a letter to employees. “We have been asked to demonstrate neutrality in all posts, screens and lessons.”

He continued: “We have been informed that the inclusion and use of pronouns in staff and classroom email signatures is not permitted, and should be removed from the classroom. [district]-Account is owned. “

“Moreover,” added Beals, “any display or ‘concept that could reasonably give rise to sponsorship, approval or endorsement’ should be removed from the classroom. These are all what the district considers to be professional standards, with neutrality being key. “

Stalberte told The Daily Beast that the group’s Instagram post featuring the rainbow emblem was disapproved and included “inappropriate” additions to the school’s official logo.

In a statement, she added that employees were expected to comply district email standards for more than a decade, including font color, style, and size; the title of an educator; location; and phone, fax and cell phone numbers. Standards cannot be changed “in any way” and should not include anything related to religion, politics, or “personal philosophy”.

Stalberte affirms that the school board does not discriminate against students on the basis of Title IX.

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

Brody Martin CATA Campus

However, the students felt the timing of the school board’s decision to double down on those policies was questionable, coming shortly after Sides joined.

“Student [did] Didn’t realize this policy was being enforced until the controversy stemmed from our musical – after the movie was provoked on the Facebook group,” CATA junior Brody Martin told The Daily Beast in an email. “Essentially, their ‘neutral’ stance is just a way of promoting their ideals into the school system, and it can be damaging to those who are currently in the locker room or those who are not in favor. family support.”

“The amazing thing about this show is that it’s completely gender-neutral. However, teachers and administrators are receiving backlash because of this,” 11th grader Gabby Laatz said in an email to The Daily Beast. “It’s hard to be seen as a weird student. Regarding the neutrality statement, I feel like they are telling me that my identity is unprofessional.”

Another student, 9th grader Blake Hudson, told The Daily Beast that teachers had previously supported her self-discovery process and they had helped protect her mental health. But with the intervention of district officials, she fears other students won’t be able to have a life-changing teacher-student relationship.

“For me, it was like students needing help finding their voices and needing people to care,” Hudson said. “I went to the school counselor, I went to my teachers, and they helped me find my voice.”

Sides did not return The Daily Beast’s request for comment, nor the Union County Mothers for Freedom chapter. “If students have questions or anything, we definitely encourage them to talk to the principal or their counselor, but they really are encouraged,” said Stalberte, a spokesperson for the district. support.”

As the stock ramps up, community members begin online recommendations hold the school district accountable for discriminating against students on the basis of their gender. It accuses the council of asking for “neutrality” only when it fits its agenda, not when its members endorse religious events like campus Bible studies.

“What should be an incredible opportunity for ALL students to participate in winning and growing music has, instead, turned into a culture war now [a]falsify all teachers in the district,” the petition.

“A small group of ‘relevant parents’ (it should be noted, none of whom have children involved in the musical nor in this particular arts program) from the extreme national organization Moms for Liberty has reached out to board members to decry this play’s traditional cast-gender selection. “

The petitioners demanded that board members not exceed their mandate for specific schools, policies related to gender and identity education be reversed, Pride flags not deemed derogatory or political and the school board must take a Title IX education course.

“We know that there should be no limit to what our youth can accomplish, especially random things. We know that everyone in our community deserves to feel safe and supported so we can all reach our greatest potential,” the petition concludes.

For many residents, the new episode only tapped the surface of deeper issues, as Union County is no stranger to censorship of the LGBTQ+ community. During the Pride events in June, an hour-long story about the drag queen was canceled after the organizer and his family received threats, according to the report. CBS 17 Raleigh. WSOC-TV 9 reported that a public library also supported Pride events. In August, a local restaurant held a drag show that attracted protesters who vowed to “keep these demons away from our children.” Fox 8 Greensboro reported.

“I hope that the school board realizes that neutrality is not an option for creating a safe environment and the real answer must be inclusive!” Laatz said in an email. “I feel like all they are doing is punishing teachers for wanting to make their students feel safe and welcome to advance their agenda.”

But despite the seemingly ongoing obstacles, Union County Public Schools says CATA production Jesus Christ Superstar will not be cancelled.

The Cast list of the show, which will premiere in March 2023, was posted on Saturday. Jesus will be played by a man and a woman.


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