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

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22 Dec 2012

Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin

School officials did not agree to parents' request for a meeting. However, Hansen did have a final meeting with school officials Dec. 20 to officialize the termination of her contract and announce plans for a "new focus for the Loveland High School drama department to include an expansion of dramatic plays, talent shows and musicals." Details were not revealed as to "the new direction the school intends to take."

"First, I want to apologize directly to Mrs. Hansen for the way this issue was handled," Loveland superintendent Dr. John Marschhausen said in a statement. "The district had a change in administration, and procedures were not in place for proper articulation of expectations and goals for the drama department. There was a breakdown internally in communicating this, which resulted in the circulating of misinformation which is unfortunate for all involved – our district, our students and Mrs. Hansen."

He added, "On behalf of the district, I want to thank Mrs. Hansen for the success she achieved during her tenure in growing the participation of the drama department, and for the powerful impact she made in the lives and development of many Loveland students. We have heard from parents and students expressing support and appreciation for Mrs. Hansen's dedication, and everyone's goal is the progress of the drama department."

The musical's Tony-nominated writers, including composer Laurence O'Keefe, lyricist Nell Benjamin and book writer Hach sent the following words to Playbill.com: "We have no idea what the superintendent's statement means. We are surprised and disappointed that an educator who put on a show about a woman succeeding through education was fired for it. Any show that tries to be smart and funny may offend some people, but Mrs. Hansen and her students looked beyond that and saw the positive message of tolerance and female empowerment at the heart of the show. We only wish the school administration had done the same. We applaud the parents and students who supported Mrs. Hansen."

Students and parents have since rallied around Hansen, showing their support by wearing Legally Blonde t-shirts to school and visiting their director at her home. "My kids go to school at Loveland," Hansen says. She stands by her choice to stage Legally Blonde and to also give displaced students, who don't always fit the typical high school mode, a safe place to express themselves.

"What is really devastating to me is to see these kids come in and some of them, their spirit is crushed," she said. "Some are gay and they have no place to fit in. Some are bi-polar, some don't do anything else at school, but they found out that the theatre department is fun. It's a place for everyone. Even the kids who work stage crew. You see how kids change. They don't talk and suddenly they're talking, smiling and making friends. To be able to empower them means so much to me."

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