Exclusive: Luner on Theatre Speaks With Larissa Mark About RENT at Trumbull High School
“I’ve never seen controversy over one of our shows before”. When a Connecticut high school principal decided he was going to cancel a scheduled production of RENT: School Edition because he believed the material in the show as “controversial” and “sensitive”, most high students would have sat back stunned and defeated. 17 year old Larissa Mark did just the opposite of that. While many high school students wouldn’t dare challenge it’s school administration on a decision made final, Larissa Mark has lead a “RENTbellion” gathering not only her fellow students but parents and community members to rally behind a production that Trumbull High School needs now more than ever before. Today, Luner on Theatre brings you our full interview with 17 year old Larissa Mark of Trumbull High School over the cancelled production of RENT: School Edition.
When I started speaking with Larissa regarding everything that has unfolded with RENT: School Edition at Trumbull High School, I asked her how she felt when everything first happened on November 25th at the meting called by principal Marc Guarino. Mark described herself as “shocked” over Guarino’s decision to cancel the production due to him believing the material was “controversial and sensitive”. Upon arriving home that night at 10 PM (after heading to another activity for several hours), Mark began to prepare for a plan that would present all the positive opportunities RENT had to bring to the Trumbull community. She spoke to me about how she created a petition that received over 1,500 signatures in just 2 days from other students. She also handed out surveys to the community to those over the age of 18 regarding the production and received a 97% approval rating of people who agreed the show should happen. She also created a Facebook Group Trumbull for RENT, which to this day has over 7,000 likes on it.
After handing principal Guarino a 167 page packet (Thats right, 167 pages) on why Mark and the Trumbull community believed RENT: School Edition should go on scheduled, Guarino announced he would reconsider his decision. I had to ask Ms. Mark if she ever fear retaliation from the school or administration for her actions trying to reverse their decision. “I was never worried about retaliation from the school considering we were respectful to the administration and our main goal throughout this entire process was to collect data for their reconsideration.” When speaking about the schools’ decision to reconsider, I asked Mark if she believed the students stood a chance of having RENT being returned to them. She mentioned she hoped the decision would be reconsidered considering the overwhelming support for the show. However, when the decision regarding RENT was not changed, her fellow students and herself felt it to be “even more disappointing.”
While we didn’t want to waste too much time on the facts already known, Larissa and I got the chance to briefly speak about a few other items regarding Trumbull High School, RENT and even herself over the final few minutes of our interview. Larissa spoke of how she never expected any of this to happen while she was the President of the Thespian Society at Trumbull and how she couldn’t be more proud to be President through all of this. She feels as though the students have treated the administration with the utmost respect and maturity that could be asked for in this situation. I loved getting to ask Ms. Mark about why RENT is so special to her.
“RENT is a play of love and acceptance. We want to present that to our community. Trumbull is a place of love and acceptance despite all of what has happened and RENT is a reflection of this school and community. We just want to spread that message.”
A pretty profound message if you ask me from a high school senior.
As for the future of RENT, no one is quite sure right now. Larissa did tell me that her and her fellow students did plan to meet up this past weekend to consider other possibilities for the production as they still did want to move forward with it despite the school no longer being a possible venue for the production. Ms. Mark will be keeping herself busy for sure despite all this drama taking place regarding the show choice at Trumbull High School. We forgot to mention that besides serving as Thespian Society President, she also is member of the Trumbull Youth Association, model UN, French Honors Society, National Honors Society, a peer tutor in math in the library as well as figure skating and playing violin. (Larissa is pictured above in Game Night which was presented this past November at Trumbull High School)
I truly enjoyed getting the chance to spek with Larissa Mark regarding the situation about RENT: School Edition at Trumbull High School in Connecticut. Our conversation was one not only filled with information but with lots of ideas of just how important the arts and theatre truly is. I feel as though the world is in good hands if we know people like Larissa Mark, who is only 17, are ready to take on the world when someone tells us the lives we live are too controversial or sensitive to be talked about. Keep up the great work Larissa. Luner on Theatre looks forward to seeing all you do very soon. For more information on the RENT: School Edition saga, follow Luner on Theatre for all your latest information. 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!