‘Threatening’ parents force school to cancel ‘gender-bending’ Robin Hood play

A young girl holding a bow and arrow

An Indiana school has cancelled a queer-inclusive student play about Robin Hood after parents complained.

Carroll High School cited “safety concerns for the students involved” as a reason for axing its production of Marian, or The True Tale of Robin Hood, which is described as a “gender-bending, patriarchy-smashing” take on the tale of Nottingham’s most famous outlaw. 

It recasts Robin as Maid Marian in disguise, leading a group of mostly non-male Merry Men. According to a petition, the play “contains queer representation, including a same-sex couple and a non-binary character”.

According to a petition, after auditions got underway, “some adults and parents… caught wind of the play’s contents and began calling the administration in protest, some using threatening tones. The following morning, the play was called off”.

Northwest Allen County Schools superintendent Wayne Barker told local outlet WANE 15 that the play was cancelled due to it being “divisive”.

“We started to have students on both sides of the issue, and it started to become a divisive play choice for students,” Barker said.

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“Some students were very comfortable with the storyline of the play, others were not comfortable with the storyline of the play, and we just thought we needed to change the message so that the story really is about our students and their performance and their work ethic and their talents.”

A student who is a member of the school’s theatre department said staff “didn’t even ask us how we feel”.

The creator of the play, Adam Szymkowicz, told Playbill that while his original script “would not be appropriate” for students, it had been adapted for a teen audience ahead of its cancellation. 

“I worry about these students and students all over the country who are being told it’s not OK to be who they are,” Szymkowicz said. 

“My play is about inclusion, and it’s a shame for [it] to be shut down by bigotry. For every cancellation we hear about, I wonder how often plays and events are never even considered, for fear of angry phone calls or harassment.” 

He added on Twitter that the teen version of the play had been staged by many other schools. 

A petition urging the Carroll High to reverse the decision has garnered more than 4,000 signatures.

“It was going to be a huge step forward in representation for Carroll’s queer community as well as a light-hearted comedy for people of any identity to enjoy,” the petition said.

“We need to show students that there is nothing wrong with being who they are unapologetically even in a world filled with hate for what it does not understand.”

The news comes after waves of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in Indiana and across the United States in recent months.

An Indiana bill copycatting Florida’s infamous Don’t Say Gay legislation has now advanced to the state senate. If passed into law, it would restrict the discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in Indiana classrooms.

The bill would also require teachers to “out” trans and non-binary students to their parents, a move that could have disastrous consequences for LGBTQ+ children. 

PinkNews contacted Northwest Allen County Schools for comment.