Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Show Goes On Despite Controversy

by Eric Humphrey

Judge Memorial's decision to produce the popular Broadway musical, "Rent: School Edition," has raised a few eyebrows among the Catholic community and those abroad due to its edgy content. "Rent," centered in an impoverished neighborhood in New York City, focuses on issues that some say are inappropriate for a high school audience.

"My concern is that at a Catholic high school, even with the toned down version, I don't think ["Rent"] is age appropriate without having an alternate perspective so that young students have a Christian perspective of those hard social issues," says Deacon John Kranz of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church. Kranz, who filled in for the sick Monsignor Mannion during the Sunday mass, discussed, in his homily, the necessity for high school students to be shown the positives in life. Parents who have approached him regarding "Rent" find fault with what Kranz describes as, "[Judge's] lack of a Catholic viewpoint."

However, this controversy in not confined to Salt Lake City's Catholic community. Blogs such as "moonbattery.com" and "orthometer.blogspot.com" have been the sites of brutal spitefulness between those who want "Rent" banned and those who support the production. KSL's appearance at director's night and subsequent news story brought further publicity to Judge's production and with it, broader criticism.

Local conservative radio host, Doug Wright, questioned Judge's choice of play and the issue of homosexuality dominated his discussions. Judge's own principal, Mr. Rick Bartman, phoned into the Doug Wright Show to defend his school's choice of performance.

"[Rent] addresses issues that kids in a diverse community are confronted with on a daily basis...the base of the play is sense of community and inclusion and sense of looking at opportunity," Bartman told Wright, "It's about young people trying to make it, make a difference, follow their dreams." However Wright persistently questioned Bartman's judgment to allow a Catholic school to perform a play that might glorify homosexuality. To this allegation, Bartman challenged Wright to, "find a person infected with HIV or even full blown AIDS that glorifies their situation," adding, "the Church does not condone homosexual behavior acted upon but welcomes homosexual persons as a part of our community." The podcast of Rick Bartman's interview on The Doug Wright Show can be found on KSL.com.

Darin Hathaway, director of "Rent" head of the drama department, seemed confused at the existence of any sort of controversy, and for good reason. "I had a parent meeting with every student who wanted to audition for Rent. I received nothing but support from the parents," said Hathaway referring to a mandatory meeting for all parents of students who auditioned, "This meeting was an opportunity for parents to express concerns about the production." For parents, this was their chance to read the high school script, discuss "Rent's" edgy content, and ultimately decide whether it is appropriate for high school students. "I received positive comments and excitement," revealed Hathaway, "I heard nothing but support from parents."
In spite of the controversy, the show did go on. "Rent: School Edition" debuted October 22 in the Judge auditorium.