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In the Face of Hate, West Potomac Students Choose to Change the World

A Strong Student Production of Kinky Boots

While several hate groups descended on the FCPS high school last weekend, the students, teachers, and families of West Potomac High School chose to work together, put on an excellent show, and have a great time. Like their shirts said, “You can change the world when you change your mind.” 

The administrators, parents, students, and educators who put their hearts, souls, and bodies on the line for this production should be commended. They created a welcoming atmosphere in the midst of an astroturfed protest. They made attendees feel safe despite the need for increased police and security presence. They created a show that made us forget the silliness and hate outside, so that we could be in community with each other while watching a performance of a lifetime.

I was struck by the set design, which resembled working-class neighborhoods from the United Kingdom. Of course, center stage were public restrooms, marked with a male and female icon, which is why protestors were outside. Binary bathrooms in a multifaceted world have become the center of political protests around the country. I hope the strong, subtle statement was not lost on others attending.

The show was phenomenal. Each person’s character resonated with their performance, including their use of working-class English diction and delightfully expressive costumes. Each actor sang well despite some exceptionally challenging songs. 

Of course the star of the show was Lola. Her dancing, singing, and humor were of professional quality. I felt her pain, joy, and fervent hope for love and acceptance. I loved how the main characters (Lola and Charlie Price) were so similar despite their differences: both felt driven and abandoned by their fathers. Their stories and friendship reminded the audience to speak from our hearts and listen with our whole unbiased mind.

I’ve heard some folks question why there was a drag brunch. Personally, I think that it added to the understanding of a community and offered an opportunity for students to learn and see people with whom they may feel a kinship; however, it was also wildly entertaining. We were thrilled watching Orpheus Rose do back flips (video below) and cheekily snag some brunch, or Pirouette dance her soul out. After the drag brunch, my eighty year old dad had a lovely conversation with Dixie Crystal, MC and drag mother to both Orpheus and Pirouette.  

Typically, neither musicals nor drag shows are my cup of tea, but I’m glad that I attended both last Saturday with a bunch of other board members from 4 Public Education and FCPS Pride. I was challenged, informed, and entertained, which is why art is necessary in this world, because it challenges your assumptions, prejudices, and senses.

The Protestors Outside

Outside, about 30 protestors stood on the median and sidewalk, distracting traffic at the entrance to West Potomac High School. We even saw one woman step out in front of a car and nearly get hit. At one point, these “moral citizens” even shouted at a teacher who walked by to “EAT A SALAD” revealing that in their heart, they behaved like immature bullies. Thankfully, their bagpipe music drowned out much of their hateful comments. For the most part, their signs were either horrifically offensive or nonsensical, but one made me giggle: "FCPS is a drag." I always appreciate humor over hate.

If it isn’t clear, the protestors seemed to be more interested in provoking locals than having an honest conversation, as evidenced by the professional cameras pointed at the counter-protesters the whole time. Fortunately, the counter-protesters were FCPS parents, students, grandparents, and Kinky Boots ticket holders, so the protestors didn’t capture anything exciting on camera, despite one of them entering the school and secretly filming West Potomac parents and teachers.

A couple of these protestors paid to attend the drag show brunch. Of course, they couldn’t just watch the show, but felt compelled to cause a disturbance by dropping white powder from a sandwich baggie near the stage. I wish I were joking, but this is what happened.

Of course, being who I am, I immediately approached them to ask what was in the baggie. They told me that it was sacrificial salt, but who knows what it actually was. Based on their responses to my questions and comments, they felt it was their right to violate rules of school and perceived safety of attendees. Their sacrificial salt looked exactly like imitation drugs or anthrax to me–if they were students, they could have been expelled. 

I’m not sure why they felt driven to pour an unidentified powder on the floor of a school theater, but they refused to understand how such behavior could be perceived as threatening. However, anyone who remembers the anthrax scares post-9/11, would not be amused by their actions. Such behavior makes people think twice about attending–in fact, how was their behavior any different than a bomb scare? Although these two women didn’t do any direct harm, their behavior was still threatening, particularly under the circumstances of the angry protest of hate and local republican groups outside. 

Reportedly, only one West Potomac parent participated in the protest, while the most of the protestors came in from outside the school district and represented multiple known hate groups who have caused disturbances and spread hateful messages in Georgetown and around the country. 

TFP Student Action: One of the defined hate groups was TFP Student Action–they were the young men wearing the red capes. TFP Student Action is the campus outreach component of “The American TFP” which has been cited by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a hate group for their “virulently anti-LGBT” views. Media Bias/Fact Check shares that American TFP is a “far-right hate group that publishes false and misleading information,” which was confirmed by my quick review of their social media pages which were littered with victimization videos declaring how evil the “left” is, despite their 501(c)(3) status. 

American TFP is organized under the name “The Foundation for a Christian Civilization, Inc.” which seems to have christo-fascist leanings and direct ties to religious and political right and the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank. It is also a participating sponsor of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual political conference attended by republicans that involves far right extremists and gives a platform to conspiracy theories.

Public Advocate of the United States: The second group, “Public Advocate of the United States,” was classified as a hate group by the SPLC in 2012. It is run by Eugene Delgaudio, a man so infamous that he has his own wikipedia page. Per the Washington Post, this former Loudoun Supervisor has a long history of anti-gay actions and words, which were so concerning that his resignation was demanded in 2012. Delgaudio was censured in 2013 by the all republican Loudoun board of supervisors for various improprieties, including potential misuse of public resources after a months-long investigation by a special jury.

Colonial Mount Vernon Republican Women's Club: One other group who participated in the protest was the Colonial Mount Vernon Republican Women’s Club, whose president is former school board candidate Stori Zimmerman (who lost in 2023 to Mr. Mateo Dunne). The student-run Potomac Wire interviewed an unnamed protestor from this group who declared that Kinky Boots was “inappropriate for high school level students” and expressed deep (illogical) concern about the fact that a board member of FCPS Pride was part of the community talk-back after a Saturday matinee.

Sadly, the republican women's group and Fairfax GOP lead the charge against West Potomac students, parents, and educators, as evidenced by numerous posts on their official web page (see above and here).

These posts seem to ignore "parents rights" (and constitutional rights!) to attend and support musicals like Kinky Boots. As a parent, I don't want an outside group to abridge my parental rights to buy a ticket to attend a delightful student theater production and associated events with my child and her grandfather. Nor, do I want outside groups that coordinate with known SPLC-defined hate groups to tell my Superintendent, Principal, School Board member(s), or school employees what to do.

On a side note: As co-leader and a long-time member of FCPS Pride, I find the comments of this Colonial Mount Vernon Republican Women’s Club to the Potomac Wire about FCPS parents and teachers from my group to be both ignorant and inflammatory. She indicated that the board members of FCPS Pride are somehow dangerous when we are parents and teachers in FCPS. Such a comment is offensive, verging on defamatory. She also made claims that we are not background-checked, even though that is not a requirement for in school activities. This statement is also false, since FCPS Pride board members are teachers and community volunteers, both of which require background checks. Is she background checked? I highly doubt it.

How can YOU Change the World?

“As educators, we need to shine the light on subject matters and events happening in the world that need to be addressed and talked about,” Mr. Cruz, director of the show,  described. “Change doesn’t happen by not addressing things. And right now, the LGBTQ community needs advocates.” [quote]

TFP Student Action form letter of complaint to West Potomac HS Principal

It is well known that school board members, staff, the superintendent, and principal all received hate mail from multiple sources who objected to the production. One of the known hate groups, TFP, set up auto-links to send emails to Ms. Jessica Statz, the West Potomac principal. Mr. Mateo Dunne (Mt. Vernon School Board member) and Dr. Michelle Reid also received emails. This caught the attention of national groups like Parents Defending Education, another SPLC-defined hate group, which has employed local activists against FCPS and other public school systems  over the last few years.

It has been said that positive emails outweighed the negative ones. But just in case, consider sending an email to Principal Statz, Dr. Reid, or Mr. Dunne to say thank you for standing up for our students and community.  

To Principal Statz, West Potomac High School

Dr Reid, FCPS Superintendent

Mr. Dunne, Mt. Vernon School Board Member

Also, consider supporting the theater programs at your local high schools. They have exceptional performances--a play in the fall and a musical in the spring--by high school students who are talented and committed. Each year, pledge to see two performances, or donate some money to support the programs. You will not be disappointed.

E-ticket to see Beyond the Page Theatre production of Kinky Boots


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