After weeks of disgruntled students and parents, Trumbull High School has decided not to cancel the controversial school musical, “Rent”.
In late November, it was announced that Trumbull’s principal had cancelled the musical, sighting it as having sensitive material. “Rent” deals frankly with HIV, drug use, and homosexuality in the early 1990’s.
Both Trumbull and Westport residents reacted with shock and sadness, but most of all, determination to change the decision. Larissa Mark, president of Trumbull High School’s Thespian Society, created a Facebook page with over six thousand likes all in support of performing “Rent”. A petition was passed around, and garnered thousands of signatures. And Monday, December 16, a meeting was held, and it was decided that “Rent” would be performed in March.
David Roth, Staples High School’s theater director, said he was disappointed when he heard it was cancelled. A resident of Trumbull, Roth directed the summer production of Rent in 2010 at Staples High School, when the current seniors were freshmen. “We had many open conversations about the themes explored in the show and how horrific the AIDS epidemic was to many social communities. Students really had no idea how many people were profoundly and directly affected by AIDS,” Roth said.
John Dodig, principal of Staples, agrees that “Rent” has something valuable to offer. “Theater is so powerful because it changes people and opens their minds” Dodig said.
Cara McNiff ‘14, who performed in Staples’ “Rent” three years ago, felt as though there was no reason to cancel “Rent” in the first place. She said that teenagers experience a lot of what is explored in the musical on a daily basis, and there’s nothing “so extreme” in “Rent” that teenagers couldn’t handle it, or better, learn from.
Clay Singer ‘13, an alum who was also in Staples’s “Rent”, calls the musical “an edgy show that deals with adult content and requires a certain level of maturity.” Singer says having a professional attitude is key, and that he didn’t think anyone at Staples felt uncomfortable.
The news that Trumbull is in fact performing “Rent” is heartwarming to many in Trumbull.
When Ava Gallo, a sophomore at Trumbull High, thought the show was cancelled, she felt betrayed. At the time, she said “the students of Trumbull High do not have a voice…It doesn’t matter that we have over 1,500 signatures on a petition, and almost 7,000 likes on a Facebook page. We aren’t allowed to confront these issues that we are faced with every day and that is what I have a problem with.”
With the musical back on, it reminds us that perseverance is influential, and that students to have a voice. And that allows for a famous, award winning musical to be performed and enjoyed by many high schools to come.
In light of the decision, Gallo is proud of the way she and the thespians handled the situation; never relenting, but being “polite while getting our point across. I think I speak for all the thespians in saying that we are just relieved to have a final decision on our musical in March and we cannot wait to do what we do best, performing!”