Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., gave a surprise performance of Rent's "Seaons of Love" at the Tony Awards Sunday night.
The performance from the students -- survivors of a school shooting on Valentine's Day -- was given on a darkly lit stage with spotlights illuminating every expression, which ranged from solemnity to joy as the performance culminated in a powerful solo and ended in a group harmony.
The students performed in honor of their teacher, Melody Herzfeld, who was awarded Carnegie Mellon University's Excellence in Theatre Education Award for 2018. Herzfeld, who works as a drama teacher and serves as director of the drama department at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, helped 65 students crouch and hide in safety during the mass shooting. She has served as director since 2003 and according to Carnegie Mellon, has overseen over 50 productions.
"As theater educators, we teach kids by giving them spaces to be critiqued, yet not judged, giving them a spot in the light, yet not full stage, creating a circle of trust in which to fail," Herzfeld said in her acceptance speech. "And also, how to begin again."
Herzfeld emphasized the indelible meaning behind both the award and the incident it recognized, and the integral role it played in her life.
"Next to the passing of my dear parents and in-laws, marrying the love of my life, and the birth of my amazing sons and reuniting with my theater students, there has never been a more defining moment in my life," Herzfeld said.