NEW YORK — Standing onstage at the Tony Awards, the drama students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School sang of love and loss in an stirring performance of “Seasons of Love” from the musical “Rent.”
The students sang on a solemn, dark stage with lights centered on them, after which they received a standing ovation.
Their drama teacher, Melody Herzfeld, was honored with a Tony Award for excellence in theater education from the Tonys and Carnegie Mellon University at the Sunday ceremony.
She and 65 of her students hid for two hours in her office when a mass shooter went on a rampage on February 14 the high school in Parkland, Florida.
“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,” she said in her acceptance speech.
“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 cannot deny it: To be heard, to tell our truth, to make a difference and to be loyally respected. We teach this every day in every arts class,” she said.
A week after the February massacre in which 17 students and faculty members died, Herzfeld directed her students in a performance of an original song called “Shine” during a CNN town hall. The song, written by two Parkland students, was part anthem, part rallying cry, expressing their pain in the wake of one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern US history.
A video of the song “Shine” was released last month, with proceeds from the downloads and views of it doing to Shine MSD, a nonprofit created by Stoneman Douglas families to support programs that provide healing through the arts. “Shine” was also performed live at the March for Our Lives in Washington in March.
“You’re not gonna knock us down. We’ll get back up again. You may have hurt us. But I promise we’ll be stronger,” a lyric from the song goes.
Herzfeld has been directing the drama department at Stoneman Douglas since 2003, overseeing more than 50 productions, according to Carnegie Mellon. She received a $10,000 prize with the award.
She ended her speech with thanks to her high school and the words: “MSD strong.”