Sydney Catholic Schools Apologizes for Student Musical Featuring Queer Couple

Australian parents and educators are engaged in disagreement over the depiction of a gay couple in a recent production of School of Rock, produced by the Sydney Catholic Schools organization.

For the first time, Sydney’s network of Catholic schools hosted a joint musical production, bringing together students from 150 schools, according to the Star Observer. The show was staged at the Qudos Bank Arena, a professional venue.

Tony Farley, executive director of Sydney Catholic Schools, appeared in a promotional video in February announcing the casting for the event, and forecasting that it would be the largest theatrical event ever hosted by the school system. He referred to the production, which would include 4,000 performers, as “one of the largest musicals ever seen in the City of Sydney.”

The musical includes a brief scene with two minor characters who are a gay couple. A vocal minority of parents sent complaints to the school system, arguing that the musical was not appropriate for a Catholic school system. The Star Observer reported:

“Some in the audience were quietly celebrating; some were puzzled about why a musical with such a scene was chosen; and some were incensed enough to contact head office.”

Farley was also the executive producer of the production, according to Q News. Despite his participation in bringing School of Rock to the stage, he issued an apology for the choice of the play after receiving backlash from a vocal minority of parents. The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Farley as saying:

“‘Sydney Catholic Schools sincerely apologises and takes responsibility for any elements which caused offence and are undertaking a full review of all aspects of the production which will ensure that a situation such as this will not occur again.'”

While some parents celebrated this concession from the school system, others were dismayed that the work of the students was being overshadowed by culture war issues. The Herald explained:

“In addition to homophobic backlash online, many other Catholic school parents supported the large-scale production.

“‘It’s sad to see how adults come out to ruin the excitement and happiness of children who have worked so hard all year for this production to come to life,’ one parent wrote on Facebook.”

As The Herald noted, two-thirds of Australian Catholics support marriage equality. The musical showcased that Sydney’s Catholic schools are comfortable creating and engaging with media which features queer characters. However, it seems that the concerns of LGBTQ-negative parents may have a lasting impact on future theater productions.

Sydney Catholic Schools should not have capitulated so quickly to the demands of a small group of parents who were uncomfortable with the depiction of LGBTQ+ characters. Catholic institutions should be spaces in which all identities are celebrated. The intrusion of tired LGBTQ-negative culture wars into the joyful space of school theater signals a failure of a Catholic community to protect the artistic freedom and God-given dignity of all students.

Andru Zodrow (he/him), New Ways Ministry, October 31, 2022

1 reply
  1. Patricia Hoppa
    Patricia Hoppa says:

    Sydney Catholic Schools should not have capitulated so quickly to the demands of a small group of parents who were uncomfortable with the depiction of LGBTQ+ characters. Catholic institutions should be spaces in which all identities are celebrated. The intrusion of tired LGBTQ-negative culture wars into the joyful space of school theater signals a failure of a Catholic community to protect the artistic freedom and God-given dignity of all students. AFIRM

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.