All remaining ADMISSIONS performances have been cancelled. Click here for our COVID-19 update.

A Note to Our Community from Stafford Arima

Theatre Calgary Season Update

With the health and wellness of our patrons, employees, artists, and volunteers our top priority, Theatre Calgary has cancelled all remaining performances of our current show Admissions (scheduled through April 4), and postponed Million Dollar Quartet, (scheduled April 21 through May 24) until further notice.

More information for ticket holders

Marc Hall, the true-life hero of The Louder We Get, on what happens when you get loud.

Marc Hall shares his story as an 'accidental activist' and how he fought for his human right to bring his boyfriend to his high school prom.

When we look back to grade 12, most of us do not have the memory of filing a court injunction to bring our date to prom. For former Ontario native Marc Hall, that is exactly what his senior year at Monsignor John Pereyma Catholic Secondary School looked like in 2002.

Towards the end of Grade 11, the excitement of prom began to build. Everyone was abuzz with the usual topics of themes, what to wear, who will you dance with, and of course, who will you bring to prom. Marc had been dating his boyfriend, Jean-Paul (JP) Dumond, for about one year and wanted JP to be his date. While Marc took into account he attended a Catholic school, he also knew his teachers and mentors to be liberal and never thought bringing his boyfriend to prom would be an issue. Marc confided in his grade 11 English teacher who agreed with Marc but offered to ask on his behalf.

The summer passed and the new school year had begun, and while Marc never heard back from his teacher he had forgotten all about it. That was until January 2002 hit, and the topic of prom resurfaced. He began visiting the Principal’s office to speak with him about his prom date but continued to be told the Principal was busy or wasn’t there, and after multiple attempts, he could see that his Principal was avoiding him. Then one day during class, Marc was called to the Principal’s office, and he knew immediately what it was about.

“My Principal sat across me and told me the School Board had denied my request to bring my boyfriend to prom stating, ‘they cannot condone homosexual behaviour’. I was shocked and devastated, and could not find the words to respond,” said Marc. “My school was my second home, it’s where we spend most of our time next to our family homes. I couldn’t believe I was rejected by them for being myself.”

But this didn’t stop Marc. After sharing what happened with his parents, they scheduled a meeting together with the Principal. This time Marc came prepared with a speech to defend himself and his position, and with his parents alongside him, he believed this would be the end of it. But Marc was once again told he would not be allowed to bring his boyfriend to prom.

Marc was upset and feeling defeated. He called his friend best friend Cassy (known as Carly in the production) to the office. This marked a pivotal moment in Marc’s journey. After Cassy and friends heard how the school had reacted, they came together over the weekend creating a website sharing Marc’s story, including the speech he shared with the Principal, welcoming feedback from the public realm on his situation. Marc’s friends surprised him with the website on Monday and watched the website’s popularity grow. The hits kept coming in, attracting the attention of a radio reporter. At the young age of 17, he was nervous to speak to media but decided to try one interview.  Marc’s interview was a success, and from this moment, Marc’s story became prime time evening news. The interest in Marc’s story blew up.  

“The following days at school were a media circus. There were cameras, reporters running around, satellite trucks on the street, and my first reaction was to run and hide,” shared Marc. “Once lunch hour hit, reporters started to leave the school grounds, and there was one left outside. My best friend encouraged me to try one interview.”

After this moment, Marc learned quickly how to work with the media, taking daily scrums and interviews sharing his story and desire to be able to take his boyfriend to prom. It quickly grew from an Oshawa and Ontario story to one that reached people across Canada. Marc was encouraged by the support of media, local politicians, community organizations and advocates, peers, friends and family, to continue to fight for his right to bring who he wanted to prom. It was this amazing outpouring of support from this network that gave him the strength to continue.

“I always say I was an accidental activist, not to diminish what I fought and stood for, but I was 17, I had only come out to my family one year prior to this, and facing all the media was nerve-wracking. It was largely because of the village standing behind me that I was able to overcome my fear and keep standing my ground.”

And while he had an entire community banding together, there were still many who held homophobic attitudes and made it difficult for Marc to keep moving forward. He received death threats, hate mail, and threats against his family. When his family’s safety was in jeopardy, and he was considering ending his fight, he received a phone call from a teen who was reaching out to Marc for help. The boy hadn’t come out to his family but shared that Marc’s story was giving him strength. Marc spoke to him for an hour, and a week or so later, he got a letter from this boy sharing he had come out to his family and it was all because of him. Marc realized what he was fighting for was bigger than himself.

Given the School Board continued to deny Marc’s request, and ignore his voice and the community of people behind him, his family made the decision to retain legal counsel. It was this lawyer who made Marc aware that his high school and the School Board had violated his human rights and had discriminated against him, and his case would be taken to court.

“My team of lawyers had two main tenants, one was the fact you cannot discriminate against taxpayers’ children, and also their decision violated Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which states you cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.”

His lawyers knew they could win based on these arguments, but it was one month before the prom so they had to file an injunction, literally trial by fire. What followed was a series of cross-examinations at the School Board. Marc remembers it was highly intimidating, as the room was full of people who told him ‘no’ and it was an environment where he didn’t feel safe.

But in the end, it all paid off. The court’s decision came three hours before the prom started. Marc could finally celebrate his prom with the person he wanted to.

Marc continues to share his story through motivational speaking with school groups, showing young people no matter what kind of struggle you’re going through, if you look hard enough, there are people there to help and support you. He also reminds people that what he accomplished was a large act of change, but it’s also about the small things you can do that can propel our society forward.

With The Louder We Get coming to life on the Theatre Calgary stage, Marc still finds it surreal.

“It’s incredible to be able to tell my story in this fun and beautiful way. Even though this happened 18 years ago, the story and the messages behind it are still relevant today. There are still individuals struggling with how to feel safe in today’s world being themselves.”

Marc is hopeful that this show helps audiences think critically about what’s happening around them. He hopes that people understand that while we have progressed a lot since 2002, we still have a long ways to go.

“And to anyone who is struggling, whatever you’re going through, this is a reminder that you’re not alone.”

 

Marc Hall (left) with Evan Kinnane (right) who plays Marc in the production, The Louder We Get

Marc Hall (left) with Evan Kinnane (right) who plays Marc in the production, The Louder We Get

“I always say I was an accidental activist, not to diminish what I fought and stood for, but I was 17, I had only come out to my family one year prior to this, and facing all the media was nerve wracking. It was largely because of the village standing behind me that I was able to overcome my fear and keep standing my ground.”

Marc Hall
Marc Hall at his high school prom in 2002