Board of Education backs principal on production of Rent

It’s been a busy week for members of Trumbull High's Thespian Society. Student efforts to get the administration to reconsider the decision to put the kibosh on a school production of RENT has been picked up by media throughout the state and around the country. They’ve gained almost 6,000 supporters for a Facebook page set up last Tuesday, sent out surveys and  spoke before the Board of Education Tuesday night, all in support of the production.

On Tuesday night, the Board of Education supported the principal's decision but said production could still go forward in the future with proper planning. Students were told that Principal Marc Guarino was meeting with Superintendent Gary Cialfi earlier this week to discuss the production.

Thespian Society President and high school senior, Larissa Mark has been a main driving force behind putting the spotlight on this issue in the community. She has also emphasized the importance of students opposing this decision by Principal Guarino in a respectful way, which can be hard to manage when your cause gets so much attention.

“I think our overall goal is to provide as much information as possible so there can be a more informed decision made,” Mark said this week.

The cause has caught the attention of groups like Musical Theater International and the National Coalition Against Censorship and has gained a tremendous amount of media attention, with stories in Hartford Courant, Connecticut Magazine, local television stations and more.

“It’s been a shock to all of us, I think,” Mark said of all the attention. “The most amazing thing is how far it has stretched across the country — we’ve heard from people up in Maine and in Chicago, all in support.”

RENT is musical about a group of friends in New York City and discusses themes of homosexuality, drug use and HIV/AIDS. However, the production has been adapted into a “school edition” that cleans up some of the language and drug references. It’s been produced by other schools in the state, including Amity High School.

The theater group chose the musical for its spring production a few months ago. The spring production takes the stage in late March.

“RENT is a beautiful musical with worldly themes of acceptance and promoting love and other good qualities,” Mark said.

Parents and students in support of the play say it can open important discussions for young people.

“Art is meant to explore the passions and struggles of our modern society,” the group’s Facebook page reads. “The students at Trumbull High want to make a statement of saying that our generation will not discriminate against people based on sexual orientation, that drugs can ruin people’s lives, as they do for many characters in the show, and that we want to make an impact on the society we live in.”

Mark said she hasn’t spoken to Principal Guarino on the their efforts since last Wednesday. They've also collected survey results and information.

“As of Sunday night when we went through the surveys there was 96% of people in support of RENT,” Mark said.


Parents and students spoke out to the Board of Education Tuesday night. One student, Hannah Pirozzoli, said the school shouldn’t be afraid to tackle some of the heavy topics. She also spoke on behalf of a gay student, who said he never felt discriminated against or unsafe in Trumbull High, but that canceling the production was sending a bad message.

Trumbull resident Janet O’Donnell, a teacher at Amity, said her school was the first in the state to tackle the school production of RENT. She said the students shouldn't be denied the opportunity to perform the play.

“We lived to tell about it,” O’Donnell said of Amity performing the musical.

Another parent, who met with Principal Guarino, said she was disappointed the principal has not given comment to any media covering the story. The Times has placed calls to Mr. Guarino's office, but hadn’t heard back as of Wednesday morning.

Mark has asked that students remain respectful of the administration.

“We will get nowhere in our campaign if we act confrontationally and forcefully on this topic,” Larissa wrote in a letter to students and the community. “We should not scream, fight or in any way threaten the administration for making a very hard decision.”

Audtions for RENT were set to start Dec. 9, but now auditions for a spring musical will be pushed back to January. Students don’t know yet if those will be auditions for RENT or a replacement musical, Mark said.

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