Drama students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School performed the Rent standout "Seasons of Love" at the 2018 Tony Awards to honor their theatre teacher Melody Herzfeld, who helped saved dozens of lives during the shooting at the Parkland, Florida school.
Herzfeld barricaded 65 students inside a closet within her classroom during the February 14th shooting, which killed 17 people at the school. For her actions, the Tonys awarded Herzfeld the 2018 Excellence in Theatre Education Award, an annual honor given to a K-12 theater instructor that "demonstrated monumental impact on the lives of students and who embodies the highest standards of the profession."
"During a normal given time I would say that I am truly humbled and grateful for this recognition for the work I have done, however the way that my students have taken to action through speech, performance and passionate honesty it now means so much more," Herzfeld previously said in a statement, noting the March for Our Lives movement sparked by Parkland students. "My work is being reflected through my students, as it is every day with every arts teacher around the world."
The award included $10,000 for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas drama program as well as an invite to accept the honor at the 2018 Tony Awards, where Herzfeld gave an acceptance speech after receiving the award:
"We all have a common energy. We all want the same thing – we cannot deny it – to be heard, to hit our mark, to tell our truth, to make a difference," Herzfeld told the crowd. "We teach this every day in every arts class."
"It means more than anything," Herzfeld told NPR of the award. "To our community, it's a sense of hope, it's a sense of happiness, and pride and joy to recognize that these people here that live here, and these students that go to this school, they're not just given everything, they work really hard for what they have, and to be recognized by such a special organization that doesn't just give stuff away, it's very meaningful to the whole community here."