Prom Queen — October 27 to november 20

Marc Hall’s Journey and Prom

Richard Burnett
Commentaires
Marc Hall

Marc Hall didn’t quite know what he’d really gotten himself into back in 2002 when he fought a difficult but successful legal battle against the Durham Catholic District School Board in Oshawa, Ontario, so he could bring his boyfriend to the high school prom.

Hall not only made international headlines, but history when Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert McKinnon issued an injunction permitting Hall to attend the prom with his boyfriend. Fully aware that school board officials said allowing the date would mean the Catholic Church endorses the “homosexual lifestyle,” McKinnon also ordered Monsignor John Pereyma Catholic Secondary School to not cancel the prom.
 
Just hours after McKinnon’s ruling, Hall – who was all of 17 and sporting a white tuxedo and blue hair – stepped into his limo with his boyfriend and headed happily out to the prom.
 
In the end, Hall’s battle was chronicled in the 2002 documentary film Prom Fight: The Marc Hall Story as well as the 2004 CTV television feature film Prom Queen: The Marc Hall Story. This autumn, Hall is back in the news as Prom Queen teleplay writer Kent Staines and producer Mary Young Leckie premiere their eight-years-in-the-making musical adaptation of Prom Queen. The musical also features choreography from So You Think You Can Dance judge and choreographer Sean Cheesman. 
 
This summer I caught up with Marc Hall for a frank one-on-one about his very public journey and Prom Queen: The Musical.
 
How involved were you in the making of this musical?
 
I’ve always been invited at different stages of the play to give my input, whether they wanted clarifications on anything, from conversations to school-board meetings. I haven’t seen an actual script, but I saw a workshop version of the first act at Oakville’s Sheridan College in November 2014. I was living in Calgary at the time (where Hall currently works as a research assistant with Nursing’s Research Office at the University of Calgary), so they flew me down to see the workshop and I thought it was brilliant. They were true to the story, share some important messages, and I have a long relationship with Kent Staines and Mary Young Leckie. Years ago they told me how they wanted to tell the story in a different way, and they were brainstorming ideas when they came up with the idea for a musical. So they called me and I was blown away! To it see it come to fruition after all this time is quite incredible.
 
How old were you when you saw their 2004 movie about yourself?
 
I was 19 when the Prom Queen movie came out. There was an opening night in downtown Toronto, with a red carpet and tons of people. That experience was incredibly surreal. And that feeling hasn’t gone away. I mean, I just had a meeting for one of the projects I am working on and a (project investigator) who I had never met before ¬asked me during a coffee break, “Marc Hall – like the prom guy, right?” He didn’t know there is a new musical opening, he just knew my name! This has happened before, and it is still a surreal experience for me. People still remember my story.
 
Are you happy about that?
 
I am. Originally, obviously, my main objective was to be able to take my boyfriend to the prom. But it quickly evolved into my fighting for a community. I was fighting so that other people wouldn’t have to go through this. I mean, I was just 17, trying to figure out who I was and there was so much pressure on me. I wondered could I even do this? Am I strong enough? At the same time I was cast as this poster child for LGBTQ rights, which was quite intense for a 17-year-old. It was quite overwhelming. 
 
Then one night at home in my bedroom, a random phone call came in for me, and it was from a 13-year-old boy who lived in a rural Ontario town. He said he was feeling very insecure about who he was, that my story gave him strength. We had a good three-to-four-hour phone conversation. I remember I told him he was still young, that things would get better. Two-to-three weeks later he called me back and said because of my (legal) fight and our conversation, he felt comfortable enough to come out to his parents. That blew my mind. At that point I knew I was doing the right thing. From that point on, I had no hesitations. 
 
Did anybody at the Durham Catholic District School Board ever apologize to you?
 
No. But I remember one day at a store I ran into one of the main school board trustees, and it was the most awkward exchange. She asked me how I was doing. But no one ever actually apologized. 
 
What happened to your real-life boyfriend who you brought to the prom?
 
During the prom ordeal, he was still in the closet. That’s why I came to the forefront. In the end I was getting very busy with media interviews and all, and it took a toll on our relationship. So after the prom we decided to go our separate ways. We lost touch.
 
Do handsome young men still throw themselves at the feet of Marc Hall?
 
(Laughs) I remember a few years after the movie I would go on first dates and one of the first things many would say was, “I contacted you because I knew you were Marc Hall.” And I was like, “Oh, God.” It doesn’t happen as frequently anymore.
 
When the movie came out, it really was a different era, before social media. I always thought the movie about your life served a purpose, especially for young people. Do you think the new musical also has a purpose?
 
I think it is a celebration, but is also a timely reminder of how far we have come. We must (still) fight discrimination and celebrate diversity. It is important to love and accept who you are, and love and accept others. We have come a long way, but people still need to hear those messages. 
 
Your parents will be there with you on opening night at the Segal Centre. How excited are you?
 
I can’t even put into words how I am feeling about all of this! The Prom Queen team and the Segal team have been amazing. I am humbled, honoured and very excited to share my story again. I’m really enjoying the ride. I’m also excited to see the whole thing, because all I’ve seen so far was a rough workshop of Act One! I think I’m in for another surreal night! 
 
Prom Queen: The Musical world premiere at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, from Oct. 27 to Nov. 20. For tickets, visit www.segalcentre.org.
 
Read Burnett’s national queer-issues column Three Dollar Bill online at www.bugsburnett.blogspot.com.