“Rent” Controversy Makes Front Page of NY Times

As our own Andrew Davey reported earlier in the week, the controversy over a proposed production of “Rent” in Newport Beach has caught the attention of the New York Times.

rentFrom the story:

In the short term, however, “Rent: School Edition” appears to be something of a cultural litmus test, with supporters and opponents of the play using its words and themes to battle. In recent years, school productions of “The Vagina Monologues” and the musical “Grease” have led to complaints, the latter for its drinking, smoking and kissing.

Ron Martin, the theater teacher and director here at Corona del Mar High School, found out just how controversial “Rent” can be. It was canceled after he chose the student version for the spring musical, hoping that it would counter what he saw as creeping homophobia on this Orange County campus. A recent video on Facebook, featuring Corona del Mar students using gay slurs, had upset faculty and parents, and some teachers reported that they had heard slurs at school.

“This is the first time I’ve chosen a show for the high school because I had an agenda,” Mr. Martin said. “In this instance, having an agenda as a teacher didn’t give me pause. My job is to give my students life skills. Discrimination is wrong on all levels.”

He said his principal, Fal Asrani, had objected to the show because of its treatment of “prostitution and homosexuality.” “When I heard that, I stopped her and looked her in the eye and said, ‘First, there is no prostitution in ‘Rent,’ and second, homosexuality is not wrong,’ ” Mr. Martin said. “She made no comment. It was the most demoralizing, disappointing moment in my career as a teacher.”

Ms. Asrani, in a separate interview, flatly denied ever raising homosexuality or prostitution as concerns. She said that she had asked Mr. Martin to provide her with a copy of the script to review so that she would ensure that “the show would be appropriate for people of all ages.” She and Mr. Martin agree that he did not have a copy and that he had said there was not enough time to review the script and ask the licensor, Music Theater International, if alterations could be made.

Ms. Asrani and Mr. Martin each said that the other was responsible for canceling the show.

So the question I have is, who is really to blame here.

  3 comments for ““Rent” Controversy Makes Front Page of NY Times

  1. adrian
    February 20, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    to preface with clarity on my position, i fully support same sex marriage, full rights for all including LGBT individuals and couples and siscourage and oppose any fomr of censorship.

    That being said, I think the Liberal OC might want to weigh in on the controversy over the LACCCD inbstructor who lashed out at and interupted a student who gave a presentation on Same Sex Marriage. I for oner am opposed to the actions of the instructor for a number of reasons.

    First, its suppression of ofree speech. Second, the class was a speech class which is essentially a debate course. The focus of those courses are to take controversial issues and debate your position on thise issues.

    The actions of the instructor went against the basic premise of the course. then there is the suppression of free speech issue which in the subject of this post is being suppressed atthe high school level in blocking the production of Rent for high school drama class.

  2. February 20, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Adrian — I’m not interested in your positions on anything and I’m not interested in covering any story you suggest. Why don’t you get your buddy Art to write about it? Blah,blah, blah.

  3. Chris
    February 23, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Those students from CDM High who used anti-gay slurs were likely only repeating what they hear at home. Newport Beach isn’t exactly a liberal bastion, but it is full of white, bigoted a**holes.

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