Catholic School Apologizes After Students Removed “Nutcracker” Featuring Gay Couple

The character Clara, center, with her two fathers and aunt in The Nutcracker

A Catholic school is apologizing after chaperones led students out of a performance of The Nutcracker because it featured a same-gender couple.

News that students from Notre Dame Academy, Toledo, Ohio, were led out of the show broke in a statement by alum Carly McGoldrick, who wrote on Facebook:

“Essentially, the eighth graders were forced to leave The House Theatre of Chicago’s performance of The Nutcracker on Sunday, November 24th, after a chaperone read in the program that Clara’s parents were to be performed by two men – a gay, married couple. The chaperone in question (Jessica Beaverson, the new Dean of Students) became concerned and contacted other members of the administration who were not on the trip (Sarah Cullum, the new Principal, and Andrea Zimmerman, Dean of Academics), who then encouraged her to escort the students from the performance, which they payed for. (Or rather, their parents paid for. The trip is not free.)

“Other chaperones (as well as students) expressed their extreme reluctance to no avail, and the group of about 30 people marched out of the auditorium approximately 5 minutes before curtain. Obviously, this caused a massive disturbance and resulted in confusion throughout the theater (as well as a jarring clump of empty seats).”

In a statement, the president of Notre Dame Academy in Ohio, Kim Grilliot, said the chaperones’ decision to remove students over the inclusion of gay characters was a mistake. Grilliot wrote on Facebook:

“We apologize for our decision for 8th graders leave to a performance of The Nutcracker before it began due to casting choices. The mistake is contrary to our inclusive spirit and reminds us our actions should affirm that we are all God’s children. To clarify what happened, the decision was made for the NDA eighth graders to leave a performance of The Nutcracker before it began because upon arrival they discovered that the producer had chosen to cast two men as the main character’s parents. However, the Spirit of Inclusion statement adopted by the NDA Board of Trustees in 2014 affirms that we in the Notre Dame Academy community welcome all into our Gospel community including but not limited to people of all colors, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender expression, abilities, economic classes and nationalities. We consider the decision to not attend the performance a mistake and sincerely apologize to anyone we offended. The action does not reflect NDA’s true values. Rest assured we will redouble our efforts to live up to our inclusion statement. Sometimes we teach our children as much from our mistakes as from our successes. We view this as a chance to teach our students the value of taking ownership of one’s mistakes and to reaffirm that our community is committed to inclusion.”

For their part, students painted the school’s ‘spirit rock’ in rainbow colors with the message that “God loves u.”

Nathan Allen, artistic director of Chicago’s House Theatre which produced the The Nutcracker performance, said the school had made a similar apology to the theater company. He commented to the Chicago Tribune::

“[Allen said,] “all in all it was sad, confusing and embarrassing for the students and chaperones. The leadership at the theater at that performance did a wonderful job by encouraging them to talk about it.

“The family in ‘The Nutcracker,’ is always a gesture of how we can include all Chicagoans. In the 10th anniversary of the show this year, we were really excited because we have never done this before.”

“After the incident, students from Notre Dame Academy reached out to House Theatre and some of the actors in the show via Twitter and, Allen said, ‘took that conversation back on the bus with their chaperones and with their school. School issued a public apology and said a similar statement to us.’

Going forward, Allen of House Theatre has said the show has invited Notre Dame’s eighth graders back to see The Nutcracker. That invitation is an opportunity for reconciliation where school administrator’s can enact their stated commitment to inclusion and can teach students how to own one’s mistakes and rectify them so justice is done.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 21, 2019

3 replies
  1. Friends
    Friends says:

    There’s an interesting background story about this school. It takes a bit of untangling, but the Chicago Tribune article (which was linked in this story) contains about a hundred Twitter messages from former students at the school. These former students report that the school is run like an imperial dictatorship, in which the students themselves have very little input or control over what happens to them, or how they are treated. I just thought this crucial background information would be useful for our readers who are trying to figure out what exactly was going on at that school. The students themselves are under the thumb of an administrative dictatorship.

  2. J. Lynn Jackson
    J. Lynn Jackson says:

    What a happy ending! Bravo to the theatre, actors, students and school. In addition to covering all the expenses for the students to go to the show again, it would be wonderful to see the school theatre produce the Nutcracker with actors playing gay parents.


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