"We all want the same thing. To be heard. To tell our truth. To make a difference. And to be respected."
Drama students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School surprised the audience at the Tony Awards Sunday night with an emotional rendition of "Seasons of Love," from the musical "Rent."
They received a standing ovation and left some in the star-studded crowd in tears.
Matthew Morrison, an actor who earned a Tony nomination in 2005 for his role in the musical “The Light in the Piazza,” introduced the performance from the stage in New York. He said Tanzil Philip, a Parkland student, reached out to the Tonys about appearing on the televised show.
The Tonys every year give a special award to a theater educator in the United States. This year, the honor went to Melody Herzfeld, drama teacher at Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida.
In a speech before the telecast, Herzfeld recalled the deadly Feb. 14 shooting at the school during which she hid more than 60 students in her drama classroom. She said the lessons she had taught her "called into action" on that day.
“All the goodness and tragedy that has brought me to this point will never be erased,” she said.
“I remember on Feb. 7, in a circle with my students, encouraging them to be good to each other. And I remember only a week later, on Feb. 14, a perfect day, where all these lessons in my life and in their short lives would be called into action,” Herzfeld added.
“We all have a common energy. We all want the same thing. To be heard. To tell our truth. To make a difference. And to be respected. We teach this every day in every arts class,” she said.
Ms. Herzfeld, who will receive a $10,000 prize for her theater program, has been responsible for more than 50 productions at Stoneman Douglas since 2003.
This performance and recognition is a part of the continued spotlight on the Parkland survivors. Some of the Stoneman Douglas students have become prominent advocates of gun control since the shooting, in which 17 of their classmates were massacred.