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viernes, febrero 20, 2009

Evicting Rent From High Schools

This morning the New York Times reports that various high schools have canceled performances of "Rent", not the original Rent, but "Rent: School Edition," which is a "toned down" version of the original, because of objections about its content.

"Rent", you will recall was a huge, long running success as a Broadway musical:
“Rent,” which ran on Broadway for more than 12 years and in 1996 won the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award, is based loosely on Puccini’s opera “La Bohème.” It centers on a group of artists, straight and gay, living in the East Village. Some are H.I.V. positive; some are drug addicts; some are in recovery.
So what changes have been made?
The main changes are the deletion of some profane dialogue and lyrics as well as a song, “Contact,” that is sexually explicit. In “Rent,” that song accompanies the death of Angel, a gay drag queen with AIDS; in the high school version, his death unfolds in an earlier song.
Omitting "profane dialogue and lyrics" is a sop to the easily shocked. But omitting the song "Contact?" Is this even sexually explicit? And, more important, even if it were, is it objectionable?

I just don't get it. Maybe it's just the longevity of puritanism in America. If my own, unscientific impressions of high schoolers are any test, preventing high school students from hearing "profane dialogue and lyrics" is a complete joke in the age of Rap. And trying to shelter them from the sexually explicit despite the apparent early age of early intimacies in high school is an act of wishful thinking. The Times dutifully reports:
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.
How preposterous.

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