I was startled at first when I saw the story at Queerty. And now that the principal’s storyline of events isn’t being confirmed by any one else, I’m starting to freak out. Is anti-queer censorship alive and well at Corona del Mar High School?
It all started with this letter from a current CDM student, which I’ll post in its full entirety:
Today, most of the cast of RENT was informed that our show was cancelled. Even though we had yet to begin rehearsals, we were justifiably shocked and demanded to know what the reason behind this was. In the past, there have been minor complaints here and there about the content of some of our shows; though Mr. Martin, our director, is very conscientious about the limits of free expression in a school setting, we inevitably catch some parents off-guard with occasional profanity or sexual innuendos. However, the reason for the cancellation of RENT is much more disturbing.
Mrs. Asrani (the principal) is firmly against the portrayal of homosexual characters in RENT, despite the fact that all displays of affection have already been edited out of our script. Of course, a gay couple kissing on stage should not be inherently more offensive than a straight couple kissing, but that’s beside the point (sort of). The fact that the administration would not even allow a positive PORTRAYAL of these gay characters, whose romantic tendencies have already been neutered in Musical Theater International’s “RENT: School Edition”, is appalling.
You do not need to be a fan of RENT, a member of the Drama Department, or a homosexual person to take offense to this blatant form of discrimination. Of course, there is much more disturbing content in RENT, which we would have been happy to omit if the School Edition did not do so already, but it was readily apparent that gay characters were strictly taboo. This is not the first time this has come up: the administration reacted with outrage to a monologue from our last musical, “No Reservations”, that sympathetically portrayed a gay character. Though there was nothing remotely offensive about the monologue, they were clearly not okay with it, and that is what led them to take action and prevent us from producing what was sure to be a great spring musical.
If you are at all disturbed, offended, or shocked by what our administration has communicated to us, I urge you not to dismiss what has just happened. Our administration has sent out a very clear message that they think homosexuality is wrong and its portrayal onstage is harmful or objectionable in some way. Instead of focusing on the life-affirming, empowering message of RENT, they approached the work with narrow-mindededness and rejected it BEFORE THEY EVEN READ THE SCRIPT.
Do not sit by and allow things like this to keep happening. Our school prides itself on its association with humanitarian organizations and its label as a “No Place For Hate School”, but those distinctions feel incredibly hollow to me now. Though the Drama Department has already began the process of selecting a new spring musical, we plan to take action to defend our rights of free speech and express our concerns. The number for the ACLU’s (American Civil Liberties Union) Southern
California division is (213) 977-9500. I plan on calling tomorrow. To me, this is about much more than our spring musical; it is about a principle. I would hate to leave CdM knowing that I did nothing to prevent, in some way, a form of discrimination that was encouraged within our own school.
It would be best if the angry parent phone calls and emails to CdM were kept to a bare minimum for the time being. Focus your energy, if you have any desire to, on contacting the ACLU. They are experienced in these matters, and there is a correct way to do this. For anyone who is interested, I would love to keep you posted on any updates I get through my communication with them and with my drama director. Thanks so much for reading through this rather lengthy letterâ€¦it’s
not easy for me to be concise on a subject like this.
Now before anyone tries to accuse me or someone else outraged by this of “overreacting”, let me say this. I attended high school in South County, at Trabuco Hills HS to be more exact. I remember the drama department there tackling some similarly “dark” scripts, the only difference being that they were more hetero-centric. So are sexual relationships and death OK topics for high school plays so long as only straight people are experiencing them?
That’s what students and drama department faculty at CDM are concerned about, that the school’s principal doesn’t want “homosexuality” on stage. So is it fair for the school to blacklist anything having to do with at least 10% of this nation’s population? Are we still in an era when something involving LGBT people is “taboo”? Is Prop H8 scaring schools into censorship?
Because the student that first exposed this story asked that we concentrate our efforts in getting ACLU’s help, I’ll respect this person’s wishes. The number for their LA office (I couldn’t find a number for OC) is (213) 977-9500, and you can email the Orange County office at ocinfoATaclu-scDOTorg. You can read here on how ACLU accepts cases.
And if you know someone involved in this case or you yourself have personal experience with CDM High’s Drama Department, please email me at andrewATtheliberalocDOTcom with your story. I promise to treat you with respect and not to publicly “out” you if that’s your decision.
(Also check out Heather’s take on the controversy at OC Progressive.)