More students lose theater roles to Sherman ISD gender rule

Theater students said the new Sherman ISD gender rule has taken away about 20 people's roles.
Published: Nov. 8, 2023 at 5:01 PM CST
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SHERMAN, Texas (KXII) - In a statement, Sherman ISD announced its upcoming musical ‘Oklahoma!’ will have a new rule preventing students from playing roles of the opposite gender.

News 12 reported on Monday, that the regulation took a lead male role away from high school senior Max Hightower, who identifies as a transgender male.

It has been learned that Hightower is among about 20 students who have also lost their roles including sophomores, Natalie Ball and Ellis Weinkauf.

“Clearly they don’t know the first thing about theater if this is an issue, because even back when Shakespeare was alive and doing plays, men would play the women [characters],” Ball said.

The two female students say the Sherman High School principal called them into a meeting to inform them of the new rule. Ball and Weinkauf were cast in male ensemble roles, so they could no longer play these characters.

“Everybody’s just in the hallway sobbing,” Weinkauf said, “I just sort of collapsed to the floor.”

The students said they were not auditioning for male roles but consented to play characters of the opposite gender if needed.

“I didn’t care, I just wanted to be cast in the show,” Ball said.

This led them to land roles as cowboys because there were not enough boys to fill the characters.

Ball said she previously played a male chef in a Sherman Middle School production of The Little Mermaid Junior.

“It’s never been an issue,” Ball said.

In a statement, the district said the show is being postponed until at least mid-January to review inappropriate content. The 80-year-old production has been performed by Sherman High School before.

“I think maybe 2018 or something like that was the last time we had it [’Oklahoma!’] here,” Weinkuf said.

This year, the students are not hopeful the show will hit the stage.

“The school board, the school district, has complete control over our theater program, our hands are tied,” Ball said.

News 12 will continue following to see how and if ‘Oklahoma!’ plays out.