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Why the Orange County High School Really Banned Rent

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HATE SCHOOL MUSICAL — Yesterday Queerty broke news about an Orange County high school whose principal allegedly banned the drama department from producing Rent because of its portrayal of gay characters. (No word on whether the AIDS storyline scared her!) But now Corona del Mar High School’s Principal Fal Asrani is speaking out, saying her decision had nothing to do with hating on gays, and that it was the drama teacher who axed the production because there was “not enough time to revise to script.” Let’s play the blame game!

If you’ve been following along at home, you’ll know from our coverage that concerned students, parents, and even alumni were circulating a letter claiming Principal Asrani unfairly canceled the Rent production because she was supposedly concerned about its gay message.

Asrani says that’s not true at all. According to the OC Register:

In an interview, Asrani said the accusations were entirely inaccurate, and that drama teacher Ron Martin canceled the production after she asked to review the script for objectionable material, a common practice at schools.

Martin, she said, nixed the play Thursday after deciding there was “not enough time to revise to script,” even though the musical wasn’t set to begin until April 23 and even though the principal had not yet seen the script or requested any changes.

Asrani said she would not scrap a musical simply because it contained gay characters. “I am surprised by all these (rumors) flying around,” she said.

Gay and lesbian students “get the same respect (as) anybody else, and that would be the same (for characters) in a play,” Asrani said.

Huh. Interesting. Because drama teacher Martin has an entirely different version of things:

Martin, in an interview, told a much different version of events. Rehearsals hadn’t begun and scripts hadn’t been ordered, so getting a script for the principal would take almost two weeks, he said, and Asrani decided that would not leave enough time for revision and changes.

Regardless, “she had already told me that she would not let it proceed because of the homosexuality in it,” Martin said.

“That is the case,” he said. “I will stand by that regardless of what (school) representatives say.”

Most if not all district high schools “have a practice of requesting to review scripts to ensure that they are appropriate,” said Laura Boss, school district spokeswoman.

Martin’s version seems to hold up with students. The Daily Pilot reports:

“We went to a lunch meeting for drama class and our teacher told us the show was canceled,” said Ryan Willison, a senior at the school. “He said it was because Ms. Asrani did not want homosexual characters portrayed on stage — but that’s kind of the point of ‘Rent.’ ”

Corona del Mar alumnus Ben Halliday called the news an unacceptable turn of events.

“I’m kind of appalled that that kind of intolerance would be allowed,” he said.

[…]

Willison said it was hard to imagine what was left in the script to object to — aside from the presence of gay characters. The production was already going to use a sanitized version of the script, the “high school edition,” that had adult content cut out, Willison said.

“They don’t even let the gay couples kiss on stage, so I’m not sure what she’s objecting to,” Willison said.

No matter what the true version of events is, there’s no winner — only losers. Particularly the student actors (and crew!), their parents, the school, and the community, who won’t have a spring musical to enjoy.