Controversy, concerns heard at Tipp BOE meeting over play

TIPP CITY — Community members brought their concerns regarding Tippecanoe High School’s fall play to the Tipp City Board of Education at Monday’s meeting.

The play, “She Kills Monsters” by American playwright Qui Nguyen, follows its main character, Agnes Evans, as she attempts to find out more about her deceased older sister, Tilly. She eventually realizes that Tilly may have harbored romantic feelings for a female friend, Elizabeth. Tippecanoe High School presented the “Young Adventurers Edition” of the play, which toned down much of the language and sexual content in the original play, and rated the play as PG-13 for audiences. Despite this, community members at Monday’s meeting said they found the content to be inappropriate for students and were shocked that the play was performed on school grounds.

Lydia Pleiman read excerpts from the play during the citizens’ comments portion of the meeting, including script direction on characters having skin showing or looking like a dominatrix, and one character being referred to throughout the play by a derogatory nickname that included an expletive, in addition to also being referred to as “Average Agnes.”

“I don’t think it’s good to dehumanize any group of people, and that’s what this play did,” Pleiman said. “I read about all 91 pages of this filth, and I don’t understand why the school system is promoting this to our kids.”

THS Principal Daniel Barnes spoke about the process by which “She Kills Monsters” was selected to be performed by THS students. At the beginning of the year, drama club advisor Candice Jasinski had approached Barnes about wanting to do the play and outlined her concerns with the play. Barnes said that he and Jasinski discussed how to handle the issues in an appropriate manner.

“We can debate how appropriate it is, but in my opinion, it was appropriate for high school, and so I gave her permission to proceed with the play,” Barnes said. “We can debate whether it was the right call to make, but I did make the call.”

School board member Joellen Heatherly asked Superintendent Mark Stefanik and Barnes if they had received complaints about the play prior to the meeting. Stefanik said he had received one complaint directly and heard of another, and Barnes said he had received one direct complaint.

Vice President Anne Zakkour said that while the play is popular, it could have been a better decision to pick a production that was less controversial that a wider audience could have attended and enjoyed. She also commented on hearing that some drama club students made the decision to not participate in the fall play.

“I know theatre kids are generally very passionate, so to me, it’s also sad that because we have such limited productions, that anyone in the theatre program would abstain voluntarily because they thought it wasn’t right for them,” Zakkour said.

The school board also passed the following items at Monday’s meeting:

• Anne Zakkour was elected president pro tempore to preside over the Jan. 3, 2022 organizational meeting with Joellen Heatherly abstaining from the vote. Heatherly abstained because she wouldn’t be at the meeting.

• Donations from 1-888-OHIOCOMP, N. Miller and P. Gray in memory of former bus driver Fred Cook, and Monroe Township were accepted.

• An unpaid leave of absence was approved for Tippecanoe Middle School social studies teacher Byron Kimmel from March 14, 2022 to March 25, 2022. Kimmel will be traveling to the Middle East and sharing his experiences there in his lessons when he returns.

• The property and fleet insurance renewal with Hamler Gingrich Business and Personal Insurance Company from Dec. 11, 2021 to Dec. 11, 2022 was approved.

The next meeting of the Tipp City Board of Education will be held at 5:45 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022.