Winter play strikes controversy among students

Drama+club+president+Isabella+Nispersos+reflects+on+the+previous+productions+Lemont+High+School+has+put+on+and+thinks+about+what+future+productions+will+be+added+to+the+wall+of+fame.+%E2%80%9CWhatever+decisions+are+made%2C+I+know+that+everyone+just+wants+to+be+represented++in+the+best+way+possible%2C+and+this+is+my+open+and+honest+opinion%2C%E2%80%9D+Nisperos+said.

Reagan Russell

Drama club president Isabella Nispersos reflects on the previous productions Lemont High School has put on and thinks about what future productions will be added to the wall of fame. “Whatever decisions are made, I know that everyone just wants to be represented in the best way possible, and this is my open and honest opinion,” Nisperos said.

After the successful completion of the fall production “It’s a Wonderful Life”, Lemont’s Drama Club is eager to begin the winter play. 

On Friday Nov. 5, the club announced their annual winter play to be “The Katrina Project.” 

Playscripts.com offers a description of the “The Katrina Project” as “an emotional journey into the hearts and souls of Hurricane Katrina’s survivors. The play follows a diverse group of characters as they reflect on and experience the devastation, heartbreak, anger, and ultimately, hope of the thousands affected by the Category 5 storm.” 

However, the play received immediate backlash from several members of the club, including stage manager Josh Michealson. Michaelson started a petition to get the winter play switched due to concerns that Lemont would not be able to successfully put on a play depicting a community of color. 

Listening to Michaelson’s concerns along with others, Drama Club president Isabella Nisperos quickly expressed her concerns to the head director Leslie Kane. 

“My concern for ignoring or changing [race] in the script is the potential to speak over/for people of color, especially since this is based on real stories and we are essentially morphing it,” Nisperos said in an email. ”

— Bella Nisperos

“My concern for ignoring or changing [race] in the script is the potential to speak over/for people of color, especially since this is based on real stories and we are essentially morphing it,” Nisperos said. 

Hurricane Katrina brought significant devastation and despair to New Orleans. On account of the city’s diverse culture and large population of African Americans, the demographics of Lemont High School make it difficult to successfully convey that message in an acceptable way. 

“In terms of auditioning knowing the demographics of the school, there has to be at least some people playing a role they might feel uncomfortable with,” Nisperos said.

Taken from Illinois Report Card (Illinois Report Card)

The graph above depicts the 2021 demographics of Lemont High School students compared to the district and state. This clearly shows that the demographics of students do not represent the African Americans that were affected by the horrors of Hurricane Katrina. While it is important for stories and productions such as “The Katrina Project” to share the viewpoints of dealing with a devastating disaster, it is a significant aspect of the production that the actors can accurately portray the story in a respectful way. From this data, Lemont Drama Club can not represent this story successfully.   

Drama Club actress Juliana Tomecki believes that the best option was to switch the winter play to a more appropriate one. 

“Where our nation is socially, I believe it was the best decision for Drama Club to switch plays,” Tomecki said. “Especially with the amount of backlash the club has received from concerned students.”

The replacement play, “Radium Girls,” is better suited for Lemont High School and is still a very engaging play that many believe will be showstopping. 

“Our new play ‘Radium Girls’ is about dial painters [from the 1920s] who used paint which contained Radium, a very toxic substance,” Tomecki stated. “All the girls in the factory who were affected by the paint began to fall ill and some even died. The girls fight to receive justice and bring awareness to Radium being a dangerous substance.” 

“Drama Club is a very accepting and open club. We are one big team and always joke around that we are one big family,” Tomecki said. ”

— Juliana Tomecki

Drama Club at Lemont is always open to change. “Drama Club is a very accepting and open club, we are one big team and always joke around that we are one big family,” Tomecki said.