London public school trustees to debate restoring funding to Grand Theatre’s High School Project

London's Grand Theatre on Richmond Street. .
London's Grand Theatre on Richmond Street. . Liny Lamberink / 980 CFPL

The fallout from a decision to pull funding for a controversial play will continue into next week.

READ MORE: Online fundraiser hits goal after London school boards cancel funding for high school musical

A Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) trustee who spoke out against the board administration’s choice launched a petition to reverse that decision.

On Friday afternoon, while Jake Skinner’s petition was more than halfway to its goal of 500 signatures, Thames Valley’s board chair Matthew Reid tweeted that trustees will debate just such a motion next Tuesday.

Skinner’s petition noted that this is “the first time in 20 years that London’s two school boards won’t be sponsoring” the Grand Theatre’s High School Project.

The TVDSB and London District Catholic School Board have historically each contributed $15,000 to the program, which the Grand Theatre said costs $250,000 annually.

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Both school boards have decided not to fund this year’s production of Prom Queen, citing content and language.

The musical is based on the true story of Marc Hall, a gay Oshawa student who fought to bring his boyfriend to his high school prom in 2002 despite opposition from the local Catholic school board.

READ MORE: Interactive Irish play to kick off Grand Theatre season in London

By Friday, an online fundraiser raised over $55,000 – more than making up for the shortfall – but Skinner noted that that doesn’t mean the boards’ funding isn’t needed.

“In this case, this was driven by a specific issue which had massive public support. In most situations, this wouldn’t have occurred. Typically, the arts community doesn’t necessarily always have enough private funding.”

Skinner also said he was crafting a motion to direct TVDSB staff to consult with trustees on any funding decisions related to future theatre productions, to prevent this from happening again.

“I also think that we need to make some decisions about process moving forward,” Skinner added.

“I think it’s worth having conversations about providing a disclaimer so that when moms and dads are trying to make a decision about whether or not they’re going to send their child to this play they have adequate knowledge to make that decision.”

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Meantime, the Grand Theatre has announced it will offer two student matinees of Prom Queen, free of charge to students.

“The generosity of this community-driven fundraising effort, initiated by David Billson of rTraction, has been overwhelming,” the statement reads.

“We want to assure donors that the funds raised will be used exclusively to support the 2018 High School Project.”

Prom Queen: The Musical will run Sept. 18-29 on the Spriet Stage at the Grand Theatre. Opening night is Sept. 21.