There seems to be a recent spike in adults trying to keep Gen Y from all things sexy. First we saw Huckleberry Finn butchered a few days ago by NewSouth Books, who thinks replacing “nigger” with “slave” is better than not reading the book at all. Then there were those poor Vermont tweens, who — upon learning they wouldn't be able to bump 'n' grind at the Winter Ball this year — refused to buy tickets to the event. 'Cause what's a high-school dance without an awkward boner fest closing in from all directions? (Now it's cancelled, so the Vermont youth are free to host their own little miniraves among the maple-syrup groves instead. Isn't censorship a bitch?)
Now, right here in L.A. County, we've got our own pack of concerned adults using their jurisdiction to protect the innocent children of the suburbs. Monrovia School District Superintendent Linda Wagner has prohibited Monrovia High drama students from performing “Rent,” because…
… as she told Patch Monrovia on Jan. 4, “We need to consider all of our constituents. … If some parents/students don't feel comfortable with being in a play, where do we draw the line? There is a stripping scene and a prostitute. Some will not feel comfortable in such a role. Some will.”
Now, mysteriously, after drama teacher Marc Segal threatened to quit over the flex of powers that be, he's agreed to cooperate with the district.
“It's not banned,” a spokeswoman for the Monrovia superintendent tells the Weekly. “The decision was made by the superintendant that 'Rent' was not a family-oriented play for our community.” She says drama teacher Marc Segal is fine with that decision.
But from the way he put it to the Pasadena Star-News, we suspect he's mostly just worried the district will stop pumping school funds into his masterpieces. Watch him squirm:
Biting his tongue hard enough to draw blood, Segal said he couldn't be angry because the district was “fairly supportive” of his drama department – including in their efforts to help find and pay for an alternative space while the school auditorium remains under construction through the spring season.
In the Patch article from Jan. 5 — before his big meeting with the district — Segal said, “[Drug use is] mentioned, but its not performed. … Nobody actually takes any drugs during the show. To say that there are no kids (in Monrovia) with people in their families that do drugs is ludicrous.”
Likewise, Segal said the stripping scene was “toned down.” According to Patch:
But Segal questioned whether anyone at the district had actually read the script, which is a toned down version of the Broadway play designed for high school productions.
Contrary to what Wagner said Tuesday, the script contains no stripping scenes, according to Segal.
Segal now tells us via e-mail that us he's keeping a low profile because he's “contemplating a major decision and I'll know for sure on Monday.” However, he does add: “Suffice it to say, Rent isn't going to happen in this district, but I'm not finished yet!”
Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California sued the Newport-Mesa Unified School District in Orange County over the cancellation and re-staging of “Rent” at Corona del Mar High School. ACLU reps are getting back to us on whether this will be their next pet project.
Most importantly, here's what the enraged Monrovia High players are saying:
What do you think? Is “Rent” too real for high schoolers?
Update: ACLU attorney Peter Eliasberg says, “We're really troubled.”
He says that the district needs to explain why some material from “Rent” might make parents uncomfortable, since there is no stripper scene in the high-school adaptation. And if the discomfort has anything to do with homosexuality — “That's discrimination. If the parents weren't comfortable with black people, would there be no 'Raisin in the Sun?'”
Eliasberg says the Orange County high school's “Rent” lawsuit was settled after the district “took a number of steps to address the climate of inappropriate behavior” after the “Rent” ban stirred up a discriminatory climate on campus.
But the Monrovia case, according to the ACLU attorney, is different. “Everybody has to be comfortable? What does that mean?” he says. “Are [gay kids at Monrovia High] going to be comfortable knowing that that play is not going to be chosen?”
Eliasberg has already spoken with concerned parties on this very issue and will choose how to proceed legally once the ACLU “figures out what's really going on.”