First selectman working to bring musical back to the Trumbull High stage

Tuesday wasn’t a snow day for First Selectman Timothy Herbst, who is working with parents and the school administration to find a way to bring Rent: The School Edition to the Trumbull High stage this year.

A potential resolution could be discussed at an upcoming Board of Education meeting. A board meeting scheduled for tonight was postponed due to  icy roads predicted, following the afternoon snowfall.

Herbst met Tuesday with a group of parents who have children in the Trumbull High Thespian Society, which has been leading the charge to convince Principal Marc Guarino to reverse his decision to stop the production.

Herbst stressed that he is a not a decision-maker on the production — the power rests with district administration — but Herbst said he is acting as a mediator and facilitator. Following a meeting with parents, he said he planned to call Superintendent Gary Cialfi.

“I felt an obligation to step in,” Herbst said. “A lot of people think they were giving me good political advice by telling me to stay out of this but it’s gotten a lot of press and it’s been a black eye on the community.”

Herbst said he respects the decision and concerns raised by Principal Marc Guarino. However, all the media coverage and national attention, which has included a story in the New York Times ArtsBeat blog, has painted a negative picture. Countless news outlets and groups have covered the story and people from around the country have voiced for support for the students at, which is managed by Thespian Society President Larissa Mark. The group currently has more than 7,100 supporters. Students have been praised for maintaining a respectful tone throughout the campaign and have tried to educate the community on the production.

“I went to Trumbull High for four years, there is so much to be proud of,” Herbst said. “We have great programs.”

He stressed the importance of the theater program and way it helps create well-rounded students. Herbst said the musical, which deals with homosexuality, addiction and HIV/AIDS, is an educational opportunity to promote acceptance, tolerance and respect. Administrators and staff connected to the theater program met for four hours Monday to come up with a workable solution, Herbst said.

During the meeting with parents Tuesday, all agreed that a big concern now is scheduling. If the production can go forward, it could interfere with a number of activities students are involved in this spring, like athletic and academic competitions and AP exams. Auditions for Rent were set to start Dec. 9 and the cancellation has led to delays. The spring musical usually runs in late March.

“We’re grateful for the support of the first selectman,” parent Jonathan Tropp said. “We had a long meeting with him and he’s listened to our concerns.”

While a final decision has not been reached, parents said they are grateful things are moving in the right direction.

“Today is a positive step,” Parent Andrea Gottschall said.

“We really appreciate the first selectman’s efforts,” Tim Gallo echoed.