As the curtain rose on the set of “Wicked” in the summer of 2009, I had no idea what to expect. My 14-year-old self sat eagerly awaiting the mysterious magic about to unfold, bouncing on the edge of my seat, sensing that something otherworldly was about to take place. Almost two hours later, as the curtain drifted downward on the final scene, after tears had been shed, laughter had erupted and faces across the theater had been set in expressions of awe and wonder, I walked away with goosebumps and a new favorite musical.
Unfortunately, this specific experience may be inaccessible to the citizens of North Carolina for quite some time. Stephen Schwartz, the creator of such famous Broadway musicals as “Wicked,” “Pippin,” “Godspell” and more, recently announced, along with several other musical theater artists, that he will not allow his shows to play in North Carolina. He has stopped production of his shows in the state due to the recent passage of a discriminatory bill which requires transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to their sex at birth.
Protests and marches have taken place in opposition to the bill, and some have even compared this legislation to Jim Crow segregation laws of the past. Those in support of the bill believe that a person should use whichever bathroom or locker room matches the sex assigned on their birth certificates.
The officials and politicians who are supporting this new law are going to have to face the fact that, while the legislation may temporarily reinforce the bigoted views of some state residents, it is actually creating a bigger issue that adversely affects all North Carolinians. They are being cut off from accessing an important part of popular art and culture. While it may not seem like the biggest deal in the world for just one lyricist and composer to withhold from the state the rights to his plays, many other creators could follow suit. A large majority of the performing artists in America and elsewhere contribute to the LGBTQ population. Whether they like it or not, this discriminatory law is immediately affecting the directors’ friends and families, as well as all of those employed by Broadway and the entertainment industry at large.
Granted, these government officials are probably just the types who won’t be affected in the least by this ban. I mean, what would make conservative members of the Republican party throw their hard-earned money away on a bunch of gay, tap dancing singers, right? Wrong. By cutting off the rest of their state’s inhabitants from Schwartz’s shows and other musicals, this group is taking away an activity that hundreds of families enjoy together, and which helps connect people with culture and music in all parts of the country. Besides, you don’t have to be in support of transgender bathrooms to be able to enjoy a musical.