Under the guise of artistic expression, Monticello High School’s (MHS) theater director, Madeline Michel, has sanctioned a drama production, which appears to demean and dehumanize local police—and law enforcement in general.

A King’s Story, written by MHS student, Josh St. Hill, examines the death and societal aftermath of a fictional black Charlottesville teen killed by the bullet of a white police officer.

In an interview with the Charlottesville Daily Progress, St. Hill said the play was inspired by recent national and local events:

“People are always asking, ‘why are you guys doing the same plays?’ And our answer to that then was, ‘because it’s still happening,’” St. Hill said. “And then July 8 rolls around, Aug. 12 rolls around and we’re like, ‘see? It’s still happening.’”

“Nobody wants bad things to keep happening,” he added. “Nobody wants to see somebody die, but to see that happening in your own backyard, I feel like it’s just going to open up people’s eyes even more to understand the message and the rawness of this play.”

A “Monticello Drama” Facebook account (presumably curated by Michel) features promotional photography for A King’s Story depicting what appears to be a production set piece on display at MHS. The graffiti-covered wall shows an illustration of a young black male framed by inflammatory anti-police, anti-America imagery and rhetoric such as:

  • Amerikkka (next to an American flag)

  • Stop Killing Us

  • I Can’t Breath

  • Resist

  • Genocide

  • No Shoot Zone

  • F*** 12 (above the picture of a pig)

Perhaps illuminating the political bent behind the selection of current and previous dramatic presentations at MHS is Monticello Drama’s Twitter account—again, presumably overseen by Ms. Michel. Along with the anticipated promotion of school productions and individual talent, tweets and re-tweets are rife with overt, one-sided political commentary/advocacy on topics like:

Students, parents, and local law enforcement have quietly expressed grave concern over the production’s messaging—particularly its broad, prima facie attack on police. And while none of these entities questioned the right of Monticello High School to perform A King’s Story, they all challenged the wisdom of doing so.


  1. I can’t decide if I should be amused or irate at the expanding band of “enlightened” whites trying to outdo each other in protesting an ever expanding list of atrocities committed by white people over the past several centuries. Is it acceptable to be born into black, brown, light, bright, and damn near white privilege? I am freckled and was heckled because of it as a child. Does that mean I am a victim or just another privileged freckle faced white supremacist? I also had to wear glasses at the age of six. It’s also unfortunate that my parents were only partially educated. Otherwise maybe I would have attended an elite university where I would become aware of what a horrible race I was born into.

  2. Mr. Schilling, I know Madeline Michel (I think it’s safe to say you do not). I deeply respect and admire her dedication to her students and to encouraging their personal and artistic expression and growth. Frankly, seeing her be condemned by someone like you makes me respect her even more. My hope is that she and other teachers like her will continue to play an important role in ensuring that the next generation is thoughtful, passionate, and open-minded, willing to confront painful realities about this country we all love.

  3. I do not know Madeline Michel nor do I wish to know her. What I do know is that high schools should not be promoting a heavily biased discussion of social and political issues. I just browsed a few of the tweets from Monticello Drama. Most are harmless but there are blatantly biased quotes from the likes of Bernie Sanders and Mike Signer along with material from The Guardian. This is not a discussion on race and racism Ms Burke. It’s handing activists on one side of an issue a grand podium to promote their agenda. Do you think for one moment these students are acting in a vacuum minus outside influences? If you do, I have some gorgeous metaphorical swampland for sale.

  4. Define “unbiased.” It doesn’t mean “agrees with me.” Tell us what student, what person anywhere, acts minus outside influences. Make an argument for why, on this issue of all things, this student can only have been influenced by his teachers. Tell us the mission of educational institutions is not to raise social and political issues so students an make up their own minds about them. Like it or not, Signer and Sanders are within the mainstream of American opinion. But that shouldn’t matter. A student wrote a play, which is one thing a drama department is supposed to teach. Tell us why the it shouldn’t be presented.

  5. Mr./Ms. Apostle Obvious, how silly of me to use my real name when you hide behind a fake one! What I enjoyed most from your reply to me is that you consider a high school one-act play to be a “grand podium”. Thank you for my evening’s entertainment. Also I made no mention of race or racism in my comment, but the fact that you did gives me hope, as it indicates that you also understand they belong on the list of painful realities our country is dealing with.

  6. I find it interesting that “some” students, parents, and law enforcement have “quietly” expressed “grave” concern over this production. This is a dramatization not based on a particular case but rather speaking generally about societal observations. I speculate that those people you reference likely have not seen the play. How much of the play is about how characters deal with the tragedy of a tragic death? Everything is not about racism, white privilege, and the like. Perhaps, the play speaks to the “human” experience. Children are influenced by many things: parents, religion, teachers, society at large, etc. Why attack a teacher for allowing students a forum to express themselves? I would think the role of teachers are to encourage students to be critical thinkers and comfortable expressing themselves. Small minds speak to people, great minds speak to ideas. It does not mean all students have to think like you. We should be able to disagree without being disagreeable. I would hope as the “community watchdog” you are just as concerned with adults who are divisive, mean spirited and unwilling to deal with ideas that are different then their own.

  7. I think the title of the play is inappropriate and provocative. Quite frankly might be an example of how two wrongs don’t make a right. I agree that the topic of the play is a conversation that needs to be had. Perhaps the title is gaining the attention they hoped for prior to ticket sales. Maybe a more appropriate title would be something like “Overseer to Officer” The historical design for why why in America; ‘Justice’ doesn’t exist when the only people police seem to kill is; just us…”

  8. It’s high school theater, where students and teachers alike can pontificate on the (perceived) issues of society – not unlike Hollywood where “F*** logic” is the unspoken mantra of truly privileged people.

  9. Ms Burke, my name is Al Morris. You defended Michel which is defending the play in this case. You also joined a discussion regarding this article. Read the tweets and tell me this isn’t about race for some of those tweeting. I’m not debating the need for conversation but where and how the conversation occurs is debatable. Maybe you trust our education system to be fair and balanced in how they approach it but I sure as heck don’t and I don’t know any conservatives that do off the top of my head. The people I know are not racists and bigots either. What would happen if a conservative student wrote a play expressing his or her social observations of recent events in Charlottesville in a public forum. I feel confident there would be outrage from folks that object to it. Otherwise this article would not exist and we would not be having this discussion.

    I do apologize for the tone of my initial reply to you. As for my nickname, for some reason I had to reenter my info and chose a humorous alias. I have posted here many times under my real name mostly regarding the city council and it’s handling of the statue issues. I am blunt in trying to make my point using the fewest words possible. I also have a dislike for nuance. That is not an asset in message board type discussion. At least everyone here tries to explain their beliefs which is a huge improvement over most social commentary.

  10. I’m betting if the roles were reversed and it was a black kid that shot a white cop it wouldn’t be allowed!!! Yes disscusions should and must happen but this isn’t the way to get it started!!! You don’t disrespect people then expect to get respect!!!! There is no excuse for disrespecting someone because of the color of their skin!!! It’s all about the content of ones character!!! We are but one race, the human race we just come in different shades!!! My grandmother said this to me when I was a young boy!!! She was from the hills of eastern Kentucky and this was how she was brought up!!! We were brought up to address all elders as sir or ma’am regardless of their skin color!!! My son was brought up that way too!!! Racism has to be taught it is not natural behavior!!!! My friends come in all shapes, sizes, colors, all religions and sexual orientations!!! Just be kind and respect each another!!!

  11. Boundaries. Kids do well with boundaries. Impressionable minds. Educate properly. Integrity, character wisdom. Reach higher. Will this provide an outcome of anger or positive action, creative thinking, wise problem solving.

    How much creative depth did this title of the play require?

  12. Well this not Ms. Michels first stab at expressing her hatred of police. She should have been fired last year when a School Resource Officer found a former adult student in the school with an underage student pushed into the corner of a back room. She obstructed the officer during the arrest, called the officer a racist then lied for the adult and said she had invited him on school property. She basically covered up a near sexual assault. Now she has created this without going through the proper channels and receiving proper permission. Time to fire her for not following the rules.

  13. Thank you all for proving me absolutely correct. I am 16 years old, can think and speak for myself, was influenced by no teacher nor am I biased. I love all people, I hate none. The fact that you Mr. Schilling have used my drama teachers name and mine in this way does nothing but makes me laugh. You sit behind some desk and speak opinions on a production you haven’t even seen, and worse, you make these people of Charlottesville show their true colors. I appreciate you sir, you’ve opened up the eyes to many on how real and how relevant this play is to American society.

    Thank you so much, I will continue fighting and expressing myself just for you!

  14. First of all, it is “bias” in the school if it does not offer nor allow the other sides of the argument to be told. Government schools have a long and storied history (remember that concept…”history”?) of oppressing views with which they do not agree. So, in essence, you are telling me, Mr/Ms Government, that YOU may post anti-police propaganda on your school’s FB page (under the guise of “drama”) but I am not allowed to wear an NRA or Trump t-shirt into the school.

    If I were to create a play, say, called “Five Easy Pieces” (apologies to Carole and Bob), and, in five short acts, dramatized the five things people of color–in fact all people–should do to pull themselves out of their malaise, IF indeed those five things did not agree with the amorality taught by government schools (e.g., don’t have kids before you can afford them; get married, get settled in a job, then have kids), I would be castigated as racist and the play would not see the light of day.

    What if I had high school kids watch episodes of “All In The Family” in class…what would the reaction be?

    Writing this play was not creative. Whomever wrote the play chose a trite, hackneyed topic, an easy target, and pandered to a willing audience. This was akin to writing a comedy about Harvey Weinstein (you know, the poster boy for what goes on in the entertainment business). Easy, overdone pickins’. Theater director Michel claims she used to do stand-up comedy; I am sure she did not absorb much George Carlin.

    What Michel should have done was instruct the kids to write something with a different slant, an unorthodox angle, to work a little “on their babies.” Stretch the mind beyond the over-baked “BLM” rhetoric. Been there, done that. How about a play, say, dramatizing the black mayor of a large city who dropped a bomb on a black neighborhood and slaughtered 11 people.

    Now, as for issues with calling public schools “government schools,” Michel and her mind-numb minions need only look to the license plates on the school buses and the government-speak uttered daily in both formal and informal discussions in schools. If they are not government schools, please educate me.

  15. Forbes, you know that All in the Family spoofs conservative prejudices, right? The biggest joke is on Archie.

    I understand and share your concerns that this play will address its subjects in a simplistic manner unfair to police officers. But the author is a high school kid – how in fairness to him can you demand that it should? A point of view may be familiar and predictable, that doesn’t make it trite. Your views are perfectly predictable – does that make them trite? An audience may be receptive to a message, but the messenger is only pandering to that audience if he doesn’t believe his own message. Is there any reason to believe this kid doesn’t? Contested issues need to be addressed. The Philadelphia tragedy you reference happened decades ago and was a one-off. This issue is very much with us.

    I also understand and share concerns about schools promoting PC views and squashes others, but where is the evidence that that’s what’s going on here? When did Monticello HS tell anyone they can’t wear a Trump or NRA shirt, or that they can’t wear a Trump or NRA shirt but a BLM or Obama shirt is fine? When has the administration blocked a conservative play? If you have no evidence then you have no argument. Or to put it another way, your argument here amounts to the idea that the administration should have to squash the play just because it (supposedly) agrees with the author. You’re right that Monticello High is a government school, but that’s also a politically loaded way of saying “public school.”

    You guys rightly object to your free expression being suppressed (which isn’t happening here but does happen disturbingly often), but I hear not a peep about Trump’s authoritarian attempts to squash Mueller’s investigation and intimidate the press, or about his unsubstantiated claims, damaging to public trust, that the press isn’t just liberal (I agree) but makes things up. Why is that?

  16. I understand and share your concerns that this play will address its subjects in a simplistic manner unfair to police officers. But the author is a high school kid – how in fairness to him can you demand that it should?

    “should” should be “shouldn’t”

  17. My first impression of this title is an attempt at shock and vulgarity. Compare this to the great plays that have had profound societal impact. It seems this kind of intelligence can be learned in a back alley rather than a fancy high school. Were the students encouraged to research all sides/facts of this political issue?

    Could there be a comparison play of Black Police Officers who sacrifice their lives to come to the aid of others?

    Does this foster an aptitude and mindset of respect and integrity to those who sacrifice their lives? Will they still expect police officers to come to their aid in times of need, such as Las Vegas, hurricanes and fires among many other possible situations?

    Are we teaching our kids to respect those police officers black and white who sacrifice their lives to come to our aid?

  18. My first impression of this title is an attempt at shock and vulgarity. Compare this to the great plays that have had profound societal impact.

    The title of the play is not vulgar. It is “A King’s Story.” The author is quoted above as saying: “People are always asking, ‘why are you guys doing the same plays?’ And our answer to that then was, ‘because it’s still happening’ And then July 8 rolls around, Aug. 12 rolls around and we’re like, ‘see? It’s still happening.’” None of the people here who have condemned the play (without having seen it) have actually responded to his reason for writing it.

  19. @ Katrina, of course not. The implied reasoning used by the liberal left is that blacks in particular have a right to vent be it by disruption, destruction, and even violence. Those that dare to stand up to such pathetic behavior are immediately called identified as a white supremacist, Nazi, white nationalist, or racist. Pay attention to all the white activist that have self righteously declared themselves somehow cleansed and pure. Listen to the rhetoric spouted by so many white privileged students enjoying their free ride thru college on momma and daddy’s bank account. They have had everything provided for them their entire lives, have never held and job yet they somehow they they can dictate social and economic policy. It would be harmless if not supported by the vast majority of the academic community. When two or three radical activists force a major college president to resign and retreat into some safe space, the inmates are running the asylum. Need I even mention the NAACP boycotting an airline because of approximately a half dozen incidents out of the thousands and thousands of incident free flights blown by the same “suddenly racist” airline.

    Race and ethnic oriented organizations and groups are the major reason for disharmony and lack of discourse in this country. BLM and the NAACP are mainstream and have a huge following. The KKK, Neo Nazi’s and white supremacists are marginalized fringe radicals with few numbers. That may not always be true unless we have honest open discussions that represent all views. It’s my personal opinion that Monticello High School has no intention of allowing such dialogue.

  20. I agree with most of your first paragraph, Al, but what does that have to do with whether or not this play should be put on? Let’s say for the sake of argument that you are correct and the administration would not sanction a play with your views. Is that a reason why this particular student who has put in the time and energy to write this play should not be allowed to express his views? Do you have no sympathy for young black men who fear the police and are angry that they fear the police? You can empathize with them without thinking yourself that most white cops are racist. You can put yourself in their shoes and imagine why they feel the way they do. How do you even know this kid thinks most white cops are racist?

  21. I hope the next time there is a bomb threat at MHS, which sadly is an annual event, that Madeline Michel and Josh St. Hill apologize to the officers that come to protect them.

Leave a Reply