by BTL staff
LANSING – Everett High School is bringing “Rent” to Lansing March 17-27 as the first high school in the lower peninsula of Michigan to ever perform the controversial musical. It has also been performed in L’Anse, Mich., located on Keweenaw Bay.
Set in New York City’s Lower East Side, “Rent” deals with eight friends as they struggle with AIDS, love, loss and trying to find meaning in life. The original musical enjoyed a 12-year run on Broadway, won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award for Best Musical and was adapted into a film in 2005.
The production deals with tough issues, including homosexuality, drug use, poverty, homelessness and HIV/AIDS. The Everett High School production, however, will be based on the school edition of the musical, created specifically for performances by teenagers.
Though the language, drug use and several of the sexually charged scenes are toned down, theater teacher and director of the show Jim Allen says that the kids were more than willing to take part in the production and are no stranger to the issues presented in “Rent.”
“That’s what our kids are dealing with,” he explains.
“We have homeless kids at Everett, we have a huge poverty problem, there certainly is the issue of drugs.”
Moreover, Allen said that the presentation of sexual orientation – including a lesbian and a gay couple – is not a concern for the teens, who often see gay relationships in their school. “We have a lot of gay male and female students at our school and some of them are in the show,” he elaborates. “A lot of the kids don’t really give it a second thought; they see girls walking down the halls holding hands and hugging and guys, too, so it’s not unknown.”
While the production will address treatment of LGBT relationships, Allen points out that the focus is on HIV/AIDS. The Lansing Area AIDS Network, along with City Rescue Mission and the Greater Lansing Food Bank, will all be on-hand at each of the five performances, handing out information and answering questions. In addition to this, representatives from each of the organizations will also be speaking in classrooms throughout the two weeks the performances of “Rent” take place.
Though Allen said there has been no negative feedback yet from parents, faculty, students or school administrators, he hopes that there will at least be some reaction – good or bad. “This is supposed to be dealing with issues that are very volatile,” he admits. “I would hope that we get some reaction to it. I would not be surprised if some parents complained or some people who came and saw the show had some issues with it.
“Putting a homosexual couple on the stage is going to be controversial.”
The performances take place in the school’s auditorium at 7 p.m. March 17, 18, 19, 26 and 27. Everett High School is located at 3900 Stabler Street in Lansing. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students.