The Tony Awards are a big night for Broadway, but this year, they were also a big night for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Students who attend the school in Parkland, Florida that was attacked by a gunman in February 2017, resulting in 17 deaths, took to the Tonys stage to sing a touching rendition of "Seasons Of Love" from the hit Broadway show, Rent. The Parkland students' Tony Award's performance was emotional and beautiful and took everyone's breaths away.
The performance came as a surprise for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School's drama teacher, Melody Herzfeld, who accepted the Excellence In Theater Education prize prior to the students taking the stage. As reported by The New York times, Herzfeld hunkered with her students protecting them in a classroom during the day of the shooting. As part of her acceptance speech, Herzfeld explained receiving this award was one of the most defining moments in her life.
“Next to the passing of my dear parents and in-laws, marrying the love of my life and the birth of my amazing sons and reuniting with my theater students, there has never been a more defining moment of my life,” she said. “All the goodness and tragedy that has brought me to this point will always be embraced."
Herzfeld also described her recollection of the day of the shooting and the weeks and days before it. She said,
I remember on February 7th, sharing a circle with my beloved students, and encouraging them to be good to each other, when times were trying and to keep the family together. Accept everyone and make a difference. And I remember only a week later, on February 14th, a perfect day, where all these lessons in my life and in their short lives would be called upon to set into action... We all have a common energy. We all want the same thing. We can not deny it. To be heard. To hit our mark. To tell our truth. To make a difference. And to be loyally respected. We teach this every day in every arts class. Imagine if arts were classes that were considered 'core.' A core class in education
The Times also reports Ms. Herzfeld worked with the school's theater program since 2003 and had a hand in producing more than 50 productions during that time. As part of her honor, she received a $10,000 price to go towards her theater program.
The student's surprise performance was introduced by Glee actor Matthew Morrison and their rendition of "Seasons Of Love" is truly stunning. According to Morrison, one student named Tanzil Philip reached out to the Tonys asking to be a part of the show. Reportedly, Philip wrote, "The Broadway community showed up in our time of need and brought some much-needed light into the dark." In response, Morrison announced, “Well, Tan, rather than inviting you on to this stage to say thanks to us, our Broadway family wants to give and say thanks to you, by sharing the stage with you and your classmates."
Morrison also said, “For us, it was a life-changing experience to see these inspiring young people channeling their intense feelings of hurt and rage and sorrow into art."
You can watch their stunning performance here.
In an effort to end gun violence, Parkland student survivors are embarking on a new campaign called Road To Change, which will focus on highlighting individuals who monetarily contribute to the NRA and getting people registered to vote. Reportedly, the Road To Change tour will make 50 stops in over 20 states.
Parkland student Emma González spoke BuzzFeed about their goals for the campaign, explaining, "We would see the outcome in the polls and we would see a lot of the NRA-backed politicians out of office and a lot of younger people who ran for office, in office. That would be the goal for us, especially after this summer and in the years going forward."
The public can follow the campaign on Twitter.