Connecticut High School Administration Cancel’s Production of RENT
No Day But Today. While many school districts across the country work to minimize or eliminate their arts programs all together due to a lack of funding, it seems the districts not affected by such problems have decided to create their own. If you’re not sure exactly what I’m talking about, I’m sadly talking about the new trend of high school’s denying their students access to theatre productions because they deem the material the production portrays to be inappropriate. This sad new subject has become so popular in our society today, that Luner on Theatre is launching a new series not only covering these stories but defending them in a fight to keep theatre on stage and discussion about the society we live in relevant to the current audience. This is our first post in our new series titled Actions Through The Arts. Today, Luner on Theatre brings you the news that the principal at Trumbull High School in Connecticut has decided to cancel the school’s spring production of RENT: School Edition.
On November 25th, the principal of Trumbull High School, Marc Guarino (Pictured Right), approached the drama club and announced that he had made a decision to cancel the school’s scheduled spring musical, RENT: School Edition. While specifics were not listed, students shared that his reasoning was behind the material covered in RENT and it’s potential to offend people. A student also mentioned that Guarino spoke of the production bringing “negative attention” to not only the high school and community, but himself. Following his announcement, Guarino held an hour-long meeting with students regarding his decision and reasoning behind canceling the scheduled production.
RENT is a Tony and Pulitzer Award winning musical by Jonathan Larson based on Puccini’s opera La bohème. The musical focuses on the story of a group of young artists living in New York City’s Lower East Side in the late 80’s/early 90’s struggling to survive under the shadow of the ever-growing HIV/AIDS virus.
Trumbull High School students, including many of the THS Thespian Society, are very upset over the school’s decision to cancel RENT: School Edition. Many have voiced their concern and have asked the school to reconsider its decision regarding the musical. THS Thespian Society president Larissa Mark is leading the movement to have the show reinstated. She has a petition with over 1,500 names and a Facebook Page Trumbull For RENT, has over 5,500 LIKES already. Marks has also spoken to the local ABC and CBS stations regarding the issue.
Arts administrator, producer and overall theatre superhero Howard Sherman posted an article last week regarding this story with some important information we believe should be included in this story. His article included conversations with several key people close to the situation as it has been developing.
Sherman reported in his article How To Defend Your High School Musical, that conversations have been going on behind the scenes since late October regarding the school’s choice to produce RENT in the spring. Principal Guarino spoke with Jessica Spillane, the English Department Chair who is also an English and drama teacher as well as director of the Thespian troupe and the spring musical for Trumbull High School, beginning in late October. After their first interaction, they met a series of times and each time, the future of RENT: School Edition at Trumbull became more and more slim.
I couldn’t be more disappointed in the decision to cancel RENT: School Edition at Trumbull High School for this spring. The reason why I place the entire title when speaking about the show is for a very specific reason. Musical Theatre International has taken a series of shows, such as Miss Saigon, Sweeney Todd and Avenue Q just for a few examples, and designated these pieces as “School Edition”. What this means is the productions have been created purposefully for high school students with highly sensitive or inappropriate material removed from them as much as possible. While I could easily rant and complain about all those behind this decision at Trumbull, that is not what I’m going to do here. I will instead offer this advice to anyone considering canceling theatre productions because of the material it holds. This world we live in is consistently changing. Theatre offers the audience a chance to look at life on stage in a magnified way. RENT speaks of homosexuality, HIV/AIDS and many other issues that were not as prominent as when the piece premiered in New York just about 20 years ago. All of these issues are apart of daily life now. These are issues high school students need to be informed of before they enter college and the real world. If not, we place ourselves in grave danger of not knowing the society we enter and the dangers we may face moving forward.
This blog post is to offer the entire support of Luner on Theatre to those Trumbull High School and their mission to restore RENT: School Edition as their spring musical. Theatre is a representation of life on stage magnified for all of us to look at. If we refuse to look at our issues in a larger scale, who does that make us? Let’s not forget the world we live in. Let’s look at what we’re dealing with and look at how we change that for the future. Please note, Luner on Theatre has reached out to Guarino for comment but he has not returned our requests to speak to him regarding this topic. Luner on Theatre will continue to bring you coverage of the Trumbull High School RENT: School Edition news as it unfolds. Be sure to follow Luner on Theatre on Facebook and Follow Us on Twitter as well! We are constantly updating these pages with information! And of course, check out the rest of Luner on Theatre for all your theatre news you don’t only need but want to know and so much more!