More than 60 people spoke at the meeting in support of Max Hightower, who’d been cast as Curly, the leading male in the production, according to WFAA, an ABC affiliate in Dallas. Other students, too, had been cast in the musical to play roles opposite to their gender.
“It was emotional and empowering,” Max the station of the support. “I didn’t expect there to be no hate at all. This is something that feels so big and out of my hands. To know there is a big group out of people who want to help me and help everyone affected, it feels like we’re on even sides now and can actually win this fight.”
At the meeting, Max’s father, Philip Highwater, told school board members that the change in production would cut his son’s stage time.
“This was the biggest role Max ever had, this was a solo,” he told the group. “This would’ve been the culmination of his career.”
School board members for the Sherman Independent School District in Sherman, Texas unanimously voted to make the change on Monday night after the public comments.
The district had initially decided to postpone the production and re-cast before news of the resolution went viral.
It was scheduled to take place in early December at Sherman High School but will now go ahead in January.
After facing backlash, the district announced it would be disregarding the original script and going with a different version of the musical.
It would not be considering gender when making casting decisions, the district said in a news release, citing concerns that the script was not age-appropriate.
The musical is about a cowboy and a farmer who form a tumultuous relationship at the heels of the state becoming part of the union in 1907. The film version is rated G.
After the production was reinstated, Board President Brad Morgan said, “We want to apologize to our students, parents and our community regarding the circumstances that they have had to go through to this date.
“We understand that our decision does not erase the impact this had on our community, but we hope that we will reinforce to everyone, particularly our students, that we do embrace all of our Board goals, to include addressing the diverse needs of our students.”