I'm gonna be blunt: High schoolers across America aren't dumb. Although parents may not be ecstatic about the topic, their teens are most likely sexually active. They sure as hell have friends that are trying to figure out their sexuality, and most definitely have been through a few health classes talking about sexually transmitted diseases. Which is why I'm dumbfounded about what's going on in my hometown right now: the principal of Trumbull High School has cancelled the Thespian Society's production of Rent because of its sensitive nature involving topics like sexuality, drug use, HIV, and the love lives of both gay and straight characters. Topics that kids are discussing AT school probably this very moment.
Let me note that this adaptation of Rent is profanity-trimmed and that this is the first time that administrators have ever weighed in on the drama club's choices.
Yeah, I think it's kind of bullshit.
I participated in the school musical three years in a row back when I went to Trumbull High School. Yeah, we cared about the show we were putting on ... we were drama nerds. And sure, we learned things from the scripts. We absorbed the material. But the biggest part about being in the school musical is the experience itself. It's meeting other students who share your interests. It's having an opportunity to showcase your talent. It's those eight-hour-long Saturdays before the play shows in March where you make friendships that will last a lifetime (just as in any other extracurricular club).
THS Thespian Society president, Larissa Mark, took action fighting back against the administration, and I commend her for that. She started a petition and got almost two-thirds of the high school (roughly 1,500 students) to support their cause. She went to a Board of Education meeting to tell administrators how she really felt about cancelling the production, citing that Rent brings up "educational" and "thoughtful conversations" that are worth having.
And you know what Larissa? I think you're right. While a high school production of the popular Broadway show may spark conversation, these conversations are important to have. And believe you-me, if parents aren't having them with their teens, then you better believe teens are having them with other people instead.
The good news? The school's principal Marc Guarino doesn't seem completely closed-off to the play; he just wants more of a "plan" when it comes to putting it on stage. I think he's just being a little too sensitive to the things that teens today are already dealing with.
Do you think cancelling Rent was a mistake?
Image via Marcin Wichary/Flickr