Backstage Bias


The idea of sports being favored over theatre is nothing new, but it came to a peak at the Maryland Theatre Festival earlier this week, where six students from the school were supposed to compete. The event was supposed to go from the morning of Friday, January 6, into the evening of Saturday, the 7th. That, however, is not what happened.

After having only been at the competition for a few hours, students from all schools of Charles County were told that they were being forced to come home due to the weather conditions. What they were not told, though, is if they would be allowed to compete, would be refunded, or receive any sort of competition. Chaos ensued at Towson University where the festival is held. Students frantically attempted to get whatever information that they could, seeing as they were told little to nothing about the situation. Some people sent messages to Charles County Public Schools on Twitter, and were outraged to only be replied to with emojis. After having paid at least $150 to come to the competition, students were furious when the Board of Education refused to state whether or not they would receive any of their money back.

Luckily, some of the groups, including North Point’s one-act team, were allowed to perform, even though they had originally been scheduled for Saturday morning. However, because they were unable to attend the closing ceremonies on Saturday, the participants still do not know if they won any awards or placed in the competition.

Frustration was fueled even more when theatre students found out that there was a wrestling competition nearby, held over the same weekend, which had not been cancelled because of the snow. Charles County wrestlers were allowed to stay in the competition, as well as stay in the hotel they’d paid for, something theatre students were not able to do. This was when the idea of bias was raised. Why were the wrestlers allowed to stay and compete in the same weather conditions that required theatre students to go home?

One student who attended Maryland Theatre Festival for North Point was Miina Tarjamo (’18). “Knowing that I had to leave festival early really threw me off. I tried my best on the performance, and it still worked out really well in my opinion, but I wasn’t in the right mindset. I had felt as if I had a whole day until my real performance all day and then suddenly that day just changed to a few hours. It was unsettling,” she explained. When asked about what she wished the Board of Education would’ve done, she replied, “I wish the board would have negotiated with us or our chaperones so that we could have figured out a way to let us stay at the festival. Or they could’ve answered out questions about what’s happening with our money. Or at least returned our phone calls, or our emails, even a little bit of information would be helpful and appreciated.” Lastly, Tarjamo mentioned how she wished the theatre students would be compensated. “I’d like to have the $135 that I paid for festival back, and if not that, it would be great if they could fund our trip to nationals for festival. We paid a lot of money for a trip we didn’t even get to experience. It’s only fair that we get something back.”

In addition to Tarjamo, Asante Ma’at (’19) was at the Festival who, when the call was made that students were being sent home, felt that “we had paid for this trip and the wrong decision was made.” When asked if there was anything he wanted to say to the Board of Education, he replied, “I’d like to say that we still haven’t heard anything about getting our money back, which needs to happen now.” He also mentioned what would work as compensation. “A good way for the board to make it up to us would be to send us to Nationals. And if not, just at least give us our money back.”

The effect of bias on students is becoming a problem, and it is time that theatre students had their voice heard and put an end to the discrimination.