Ohio High School Fires Director for Staging Legally Blonde Musical; Creators and Parents Comment

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22 Dec 2012

Heather Hach
Complicating matters is the fact that Loveland School officials approved the musical in April 2012 when all of the paperwork and contracts were signed and returned to MTI. None of the Loveland administration asked to review the script prior to signing off on the show, or attended a rehearsal in the months leading up to the performance. "For eight months they knew that we were performing Legally Blonde. My rehearsals are open," Hansen said. "We rehearsed for three months, four days a week, two hours per rehearsal. We had three tech rehearsals, two dress rehearsals and two performances before I was called in to the principal's office."

Legally Blonde's Tony Award-nominated book writer Heather Hach, pointed out in an e-mail to Playbill.com, "At the end of Grease, the heroine Sandy wears less clothes to get her man. At the end of Legally Blonde, our heroine Elle Woods graduates top of her class from Harvard Law. Now what message do you want your daughter absorbing?"

Ultimately, the school postponed Hansen's auditions for the spring production of The Will Rogers Follies. Students, who learned of the news from Principal Kloesz prior to Hansen being informed, began texting their teacher. Hansen said when she contacted Kloesz on Dec. 12 to ask why auditions for Will Rogers Follies had been canceled, she was told, "You need to resign or you will be terminated."

Dan Docherty's daughter Abby is a junior at Loveland High and played Elle Woods, the determined blonde heroine in Legally Blonde. "She loved playing the role," he said. "As far as her experience, this was a dream role. She absolutely loved it. She had a blast and had no issue with content, or being on stage playing that role." Abby also played Sandy in Grease at Loveland. "We've had a lot of director turnover there the past five years and they finally got someone who the kids loved and adored," he said. "Sonja does it because she loves it. It's not like she's doing this for the money. She probably puts more into it than she makes. It was very disheartening."

Docherty is also a children's theatre director in the Cincinnati area and admits that there might be content in the show some individuals might find "borderline" for high school students. He said he did hear a few parents state the show was more mature than they anticipated, but nothing that he felt would turn into a formal complaint or result in Hansen's termination.

He added, "I'm also a big believer in allowing the arts to be the arts; that's why they're great. Parents had the discretion to not bring young kids to it, but lots of people have seen the movie by now and should understand the show."

Cynthia Bair, whose daughter Makenzie played Enid in the production, shared an e-mail she sent to the administration. "Ms. Hansen has reinforced the importance of working together, respecting individual differences, honoring personal commitments, as well as demonstrated the joy and rewards that come with pursuing and nurturing one's passion. Her investment in our children remains unmatched by any educator I have encountered thus far in my daughter’s educational experience," she wrote.

Bair is also the mother of three younger children, whom she took with her to see Legally Blonde. She said that any innuendo that might feel inappropriate would likely go unnoticed by young audience members. She added, "Like it or not, mature and sensitive themes woven into this performance will eventually touch on the lives of all high school students in one way or another. It therefore certainly seems reasonable enough to allow high school students to explore such themes artistically."

Bair also pointed out that Legally Blonde showcases stereotypes (some of which are initially offensive) in order to shatter them. "Critics were so pathetically dwelling on the irrelevant that they missed the key themes of the show completely — the importance of perseverance, friendship, and combating the hurtful and oppressive stereotypes that so ruthlessly plague high school student populations everywhere. Are not these messages entirely consistent with the CORE values that are drummed into the heads of our students from the time they enter kindergarten within the Loveland School district?"


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