THS Won't Stage 'Rent', Students Disagree

Credit: Wikipedia
Credit: Wikipedia
A Trumbull High School student has criticized the school's refusal to stage "Rent."

The student said, "Yesterday, November 25, our principal, Marc Guarino, addressed the members of the Drama club and shared his choice to cancel the spring musical Rent (school edition). His reasoning being that it covers sensitive topics that have the potential to offend people.

"He also defended his decision with the excuse that doing the production could bring negative attention to the school and the community, but, more specifically himself," he said.

Guarino was not immediately available for comment. 

The student said Guarino "is taking away our right to express ourselves."

A petition has been posted by Thespian Society head, Senior Larissa Mark.

"This is something that the show, Rent, inspires it's audience to do. Also, Rent brings light to subjects such as homosexuality, HIV/AIDS, drug use, among other things. By being able to do this production, we would have the ability to open up a dialogue regarding these topics in a constructive way to high school students," the student said.

Would you stage "Rent" at Trumbull High School? Please Tell us in the comments.
Taylor Pivarnik November 26, 2013 at 09:11 PM
Im a student at Trumbull high, I am not part of the drama club or play group nor do I have the talent to be, but every single one of the kids that perform and help with production are beyond dedicated. I have never been to a Trumbull High play but when I heard they were doing rent, my first reaction was when can I buy my ticket! Our principles decision to cancel the play is selfish. THS prides itself in our strong reputation for being one of the best schools out there. In our core values it says "We believe that by fostering self-confidence..." right there itself address a problem. Our principle doesn't want this to look bad on his reputation because of his un-awareness of his new surrounds, but the kids doing this production are aware of what is right and what is wrong. We are in high school, self confidence is key. By doing the play Rent it will bring up topics that hinder self confidence but it teaches the lesson that you are not alone. I can guarantee there are kids with issues addressed in this play and they feel alone. But they shouldn't, they are part of our community and student body and need to know we accept it. By not doing this production Mr. Guarino and our administration is we don't accept reality. We don't accept there are people with HIV and STD's, we don't except there are drug problems and that people are homosexual. Well Administration, every single topic/issue mentioned in the production is a problem in the world today. I myself accept that I go to school and I live with people with theses problems and I want these people to know there not alone. There has been comments about Mr. Guarino not knowing our community and how we react to things but I can assure you we are all in harmony when it comes to these issues. Those hundreds of names signed on those petitions are written proof! If our school does not let this play go on I wouldn't know what our school stands for anymore. I was raised learning we have the freedom of speech and expression and the freedom to be whoever we want accepted or not. In Trumbull we accept each and every individual in the community no matter who they are and where they come from. If you don't like the values expressed in Rent then you have the choice to not be part of it or attend the show. Mr. Guarino the outcome of the play does not fall in your hands it falls in the crew and cast members putting on the show and I know they will make you and the community and the school proud, all you have to do is support them and let these amazing kids put on a beautiful production. You won't regret it. Lets go THS! I can't wait to see the amazing performance your gonna put on!
Michael Dentato November 26, 2013 at 09:16 PM
Taylor! Well said! I applaud your courage and enthusiasm. There are many adults out there that support you and the drama club!! DO NOT back down!! Always stand for social justice and promote advocacy and support for all people (those living with HIV, the LGBTQ community, etc.)!! Your principal made a poor and uniformed decision that he should correct. Hearing your voice and all those that signed the petition and are discussing this on FB is essential! GOOD LUCK!!
Jill Clark November 26, 2013 at 09:44 PM
As a parent of a future THS student and as a former college theatre major, I am appalled that the principal has decided that this play is somehow too controversial for our community. When did we become unable to assess what we want to watch ourselves? I'm absolutely certain that I can make the decision without any outside influence. What play will be censored next? Cabaret? (abortion is still a hot button subject for some), Lion King? (An uncle tries to kill his nephew) Sweet Charity? ("Dance hall girls" CAN be portrayed as prostitutes.) How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying? (Nepotism, sexism, stereotyping women) I truly hope that the parents in our community would consider using this play as a teaching moment about compassion, tolerance and a healthier way to live rather than having that possibility taken from us by one individual who is apparently overly concerned about his public image. As far as I am concerned, his public image is already tarnished.
Larissa Mark November 26, 2013 at 10:02 PM
While this issue is one I do feel passionately about, I must clear the air that those quotes are not from me, and do not reflect the entire THS community. I do not believe that Mr. Guarino is trying to protect himself, I believe he is doing what he believes best for the school. What I ask is when presented with new information and the support in favor of RENT that he, along with the rest of the Board of Ed and Superintendent please reconsider this decision. Further elaboration on my thoughts can be found on our Trumbull For RENT page: https://www.facebook.com/THSforRENT
Mimi Memoli November 26, 2013 at 10:12 PM
The Show must go on! Rent is my favorite play I will even offer to direct it and perform to make it more kid friendly. Performing RENT isn't go to kill anybody. Being on this earth for only 23 years I have seen more and dealt with more shit than half of these adults that don't want the students to perform this play. I have dealt with a life altering and near death experience, I grew up around people with addictions and medical issues some that affected me so much I didn't see the point in the important things. Besides all that RENT sends a great message and teaches what needs to be taught. Half of these adults and parents want to shield their children from this stuff when eventually they will face it at their own time by themselves with no support or understanding of things like HIVAIDS, HOMOSEXUALITY, DRUGS, SEX,ETC. I think more people get offended that I am in a biracial marriage than they would watching this play. I can go on and on. I have seen it all and been through it all and I turned out just fine , I was never offended by the play RENT, the message it taught me or other play and stories like it. I am happy I learned and experienced all the things I did at an early age rather than just waiting for things to happen as I got older. Let them perform the play and get the message out screw everything else!!!!!!!!! http://mtiblog.mtishows.com/no-day-but-today-judge.../
Ed Gillespie November 26, 2013 at 10:21 PM
I encourage the school president and BOE to put their trust in the students and reconsider this decision. We should be teaching our children to be brave, open and willing to take on tough topics in a way that brings honor to the community.
Joan November 27, 2013 at 12:04 AM
Isn't it ironic that the Trumbull Youth Association put on the musical "Footloose" a couple of summers ago--a show about a town in which teenagers are not allowed to dance. And now many of the kids who were in that production are faced with the same kind of small-minded thinking regarding the decision not to allow them to perform "Rent" at THS. The characters of "Footloose" were ultimately able to prevail, and bring dancing back to their community, and I hope the THS thespians will prevail in their efforts to reverse this poor decision as well.
Tina Manus November 27, 2013 at 12:50 AM
I think they should offer a scene or 2 on the steps of Town Hall
Tracey Lepore November 27, 2013 at 07:22 AM
If in 2013 we are still finding something shocking about the topics of homosexuality, drug addiction and HIV, then maybe we need to admit that as a community and beyond there may be a larger issue then if our high school should be allowed to move forward with a school version of RENT.
dave wilsoon November 27, 2013 at 09:53 AM
Anne Hunt Cheevers November 27, 2013 at 11:08 AM
When I learned that THS would be doing RENT I was ecstatic! Finally, the community was entering the 21st century. Then it got new leadership and decided it was too controversial? Honestly, Mr. Guarino, while RENT may expose people to concepts and realities that may make some people feel uncomfortable, it does so in a realistic and joyous manner. When I'm having a lousy week I put on RENT -- it makes me laugh, it makes me cry, it makes me feel grateful and centered. Perhaps you should rent the movie and reconsider?
John Kriz November 27, 2013 at 11:14 AM
I'm not sure what good it does to pretend that these issues do not exist. They are real issues of which every student is aware. It seems that this play would have meaning to the students. I would hope that the BOE would apply some wisdom here and reconsider.
Anne Hunt Cheevers November 27, 2013 at 12:21 PM
Come back Dr. Tremaglia!
Thomas Tesoro November 27, 2013 at 12:38 PM
In fairness to the new Principal, he is new to our community and made a very cautious decision. I fully understand his situation and understand why he would take a cautious approach. That being said, I hope that he will reconsider. I hope too that the BOE will put this on their agenda the first week of December. Unlike the new Principal, they know our Community and should weigh in on this matter.
Thomas Tesoro November 27, 2013 at 12:41 PM
One last comment, this should not be an opportunity to find blame with the Principal but an opportunity for a full and fair discussion of the value of putting on the High School version of rent. Once that is done and all have had input, I hope the decision is reconsidered.
Scott Green November 27, 2013 at 12:52 PM
The Principal's decision is not consistent with the Trumbull Public Schools Mission Statement. Mission Statement "The Trumbull Public School System, in partnership with the community, strives to meet the educational needs of all students within a challenging and supportive academic environment that empowers each student to become a life-long learner and to live and participate in a democratic, diverse and global society."
Matthew Chase November 27, 2013 at 01:00 PM
Let's take it easy on the principal right now and hope that when he sees and hears the support from the entire community he will make a well informed decision. In the mean time, kudos to the kids for taking a stand on the issue and handling themselves maturely and with passion. What a great issue this is for Trumbull to deal with. Looking forward to seeing how this plays out.
1WayElephant November 27, 2013 at 01:23 PM
I may not agree with the material in this musical theater show, but freedom of speech is written right on the American Flag. But this new guy from Gillford has me feeling green around the gills. Dr. Tremaglio: now that's a man who understood the constitution. They may be able to take away your constitutional rights in Gillford, but not in Trumbull.
Patchman November 27, 2013 at 02:56 PM
I would like to comment on the controversy surrounding putting on the production of Rent at Trumbull High School. I would first like to say that there are so many wonderful, family-orientated musicals to choose from that I feel that the director and the Trumbull High drama department made a wrong choice in trying to put on the school's edition of Rent. In the past, THS has put on Fiddler on the Roof, The Wiz, etc. to the delights of Trumbullites who have come from all over town each year to watch these shows. I do not think putting on Rent would be so welcoming in town especially, to the senior citizens in which a free show is given to them each year. Also, I feel that the show Rent would have no meaning or appeal to the younger children in town especially since, ticket prices does not differ for adults, students or children. Everyone must pay the same ticket price. On another important note, thousands and thousands of dollars was spent to build a brand new, state of the art auditorium. Putting on a show Rent would encompass a smaller cast versus in previous years. Most importantly though, the sad part of the THS drama department is not the fact that they were told that they cannot put on Rent but, the THS drama department does not cast everyone who auditions for their musical. Instead, auditions are held right before Christmas and if you're name is not on the cast list, trust me, you will have a very unhappy holiday season. Now, with an auditorium with seating of 1,000 seats and a large stage, why would the THS drama department want to leave any student out of being cast even in a small ensemble part (chorus) and instead make students truly unhappy? Let's not just put on a production in the hopes of winning many awards at the Connecticut High School Musical Theatre Awards instead put on a show that every student who auditions can be a part of and not be turned away.
Matthew Chase November 27, 2013 at 03:43 PM
Long winded and anonymous? Theater in itself is the exploration of character and story....not necessarily about creating a community Kumbaya moment for the town. Choirs, bands, sports teams all have tryouts and in some cases are exclusionary. It's ok. What is important here is that the student body is making a courageous stand and are going about it the right way. The press and what looks to be some high profile interest in the production, will only help draw a larger audience for a top tier drama department that deserves some bright lights and attention and believe me, the seniors will still be there for the free show.
1WayElephant November 27, 2013 at 03:58 PM
Regardless of the play they pick, some will not make the cut. Not everyone can play quarterback for the Trumbull High School Eagles either. The bottom line is that this America and in the U S of A, we have the right to choose. I'm sure the Cheney family would back me up on this one. God bless these students for standing up for what they believe in.
dave wilsoon November 27, 2013 at 05:40 PM
Chip Deffaa November 27, 2013 at 07:28 PM
As a playwright and director, I hope the youths at Trumbull High School get a chance to do "Rent." It's an exceptional work. Jonathan Larson devoted seven years of his life to creating it. Friends of mine helped him to realize his dream--recording demo's of songs as he wrote them, helping him do readings and workshops, and eventually appear in the finished product. And "Rent" has touched people worldwide. Jonathan Larson didn't get to witness that; he died before the show officially opened in NYC. But he saw the beginnings of it--he saw the excited response of crowds that packed the first workshop run. It is a very special show, and I hope the kids get to do it. I've seen it many times. Does the principal really think that doing the show could somehow reflect badly on the community? I think censoring the show would be more likely to reflect badly on the community, and I hope the show gets to go on. The teens ought to get chances, over the course of their high school careers, to do different types of shows, with different types of music and different types of themes. I'm proud of Larissa Mark and the other teens for fighting for this. I wish you well!--CHIP DEFFAA
Jillian Noah November 28, 2013 at 03:15 AM
These "issues" he speaks of are real-life experiences that should be addressed, not ignored. Not everyone will have the luxury of remaining in the Bubble of Oblivion, as I like to call it, when they leave high school. The only negative thing that this movement would bring is the negative attention it is bringing towards the community that positively has members that are completely supportive of this work of art. Do Rent, and spread the message of love. Seasons of love! Cie la vie boheme!!
D V November 28, 2013 at 05:57 AM
I agree that whatever "negative attention" drawn would be toward the suppression of art, not to the airing in a public-school setting of the outre - if even that, anymore - topics treated upon by the musical. I don't think anyone would blink an eye had the decision gone the other way. Moreover, it should go without saying that entertainment is not the sole purpose, or even the primary purpose, of art and thus of artistic productions. Nor, I think, is it excusable to generalize about seniors and their supposed delicate sensibilities that must needs be tip-toed around. Should we assume that audiences of a certain vintage cannot be expected to tolerate anything more substantial than the artistic equivalent of pablum for the ears? I would (or will, I suppose, eventually) find that rather insulting.
D V November 28, 2013 at 06:04 AM
@Dave Wilsoon: Huh? Block caps doesn't help make your post make sense.
Joe Smith November 28, 2013 at 11:59 AM
Aaron, did my post get deleted? I guess the censorship runs from the school to the press in Trumbull.
Matthew Chase November 28, 2013 at 12:30 PM
@ Joe: little timmy comment under a different article.
Aaron Leo (Editor) November 28, 2013 at 12:54 PM
Joe, I didn't delete any posts. And have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Joe Smith December 02, 2013 at 06:23 PM
It looks like the principal is reconsidering: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-trumbull-high-school-rent-production-20131202,0,4037801.story


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